Tuesday, May 20, 2008


"Underdog" (Frederik Du Chau, 2007) Cute little adaptation of the humorous (which is the polite word when something is not funny) cartoon show of the 60's that featured Wally Cox as the anthropomorphic pooch, "Shoeshine Boy," who becomes the crusading canine of courage whenever Society is threatened by the Forces of Evil--personified by the mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister. "Underdog" was limited animation of the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" codec, and one would have mistaken "U-dog" as a Jay Ward Production if it managed to produce a chuckle or two.

As it is the film struggles mightily to work as a live action quickie--the effects work starting with "Babe" and continuing on with every talking animal movie since probably convinced the producers to not go the expensive CGI animation route. Plus, they'd miss another opportunity to star Jim Belushi in another movie. I kid, but actually...okay, I don't like Jim Belushi. But casting is not the film's problem. As the designated audience surrogate Alex Neuberger isn't all that bed--he does have to play most of his scenes with a dog (that, hate to break it to you, isn't really talking), but there is much joy to be had in the way the villains have been cast. As Simon Barsinister, Peter Dinklage gets to show off his comedy chops, and given that his sidekick is played by the dry as dust Patrick Warburton, one begins to pine whenever this mutt-and-jeff act is not on-screen.

Along the way, the filmmakers do some nice little parodies of Superman's greatest hits--scaring a cat-burglar off his suction cups, taking a flight among the stars with his favorite bitch (look, sorry, it's accurate), and because it's Disney, even throw in a plug for "Lady and the Tramp." With Jason Lee providing U-Dog's voice and the ubiquitous Amy Adams as gal-pal Polly, it's pretty good for a talking dog movie, and quite good for a flying, talking dog movie.

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