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The Erwin Brothers
Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid
Writing Credits:
Jon Erwin, David Aaron Cohen, Jon Gunn

Kurt Warner struggles against the odds to achieve his dream of NFL stardom.

Rated PG.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Descriptive Audio
Spanish Dolby 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/22/2022

• Audio Commentary with Directors Andrew and Jon Erwin and Producer Kevin Downes
• “Inspired” Featurette
• “Making the Cut” Featurette
• “A Coach’s Faith” Featurette
• “New to the Scene” Featurette
• “Meet the Champion” Featurette
• “Behind the Game” Featurette
• “Behind the Story” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
• Trailer & Previews
• DVD Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


American Underdog [Blu-Ray] (2021)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 20, 2022)

Days before I wrote this, the Los Angeles Rams won the franchise’s second Super Bowl. For a look at a key cog in their prior victory, we go to 2021’s American Underdog.

Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) plays quarterback for small University of Northern Iowa, where he makes a decent name for himself. However, the school’s I-AA status scares off scouts, so no NFL teams draft him.

Along with girlfriend – and eventual wife – Brenda (Anna Paquin) – Kurt refuses to give up on his dream, even as he works as a stocker at a grocery store. With some athletic detours along the way, Kurt strives to make it to the NFL and finally gets there.

Spoiler alert? I hope not, since I already revealed that Kurt wins a Super Bowl with the then-St. Louis Rams.

With a movie like Underdog, the film’s foregone conclusion means that it needs to find other ways to keep our interest. After all, pretty much everyone who watches the flick knows that Warner ends up as an NFL superstar, so the flick requires something else to keep our attention.

Which Underdog struggles to do. A by-the-numbers inspirational biopic, the film finds little new or especially compelling to say.

To be sure, Warner’s history offers a quality narrative. While Tom Brady stands as the greatest NFL quarterback undervalued after college – he went in the sixth round – one can easily argue Warner as the best undrafted QB in the league’s history.

Indeed, I believe Warner is the only undrafted QB to both win a Super Bowl and gain Hall of Fame induction. From grocery store clerk to NFL legend seems like a worthwhile tale.

Unfortunately, Underdog never manages to make the story anything memorable. Rather than find a deep, introspective way to view Warner’s journey, the movie becomes a banal mix of overwrought melodrama and trite “inspirational” moments.

Really, we never see Warner as anything more than an earnest, plucky underdog, while Brenda just seems steely but faithful. Despite minor backstory along the way, neither of the main characters manages to become more than two-dimensional – and maybe only 1.5-dimensional, as they border on cartoons.

Via Levi and Paquin, we get two quality actors as these roles, but they can’t elevate the tepid script. Given the presence of so many clichés and so little insight, they fail to make Kurt and/or Brenda compelling personalities.

Both around 40 during the shoot, it doesn’t help that our leads were way too old to play the Warners. Though perhaps 40-year-old Levi doesn’t look Ben-Platt-in-Dear Evan Hansen-silly as “college Kurt”, he can’t vaguely pass for 22, and this becomes a distraction.

Due to a series of remarkably unappealing wigs, we don’t notice Paquin’s advanced age as much, though we do wonder why Kurt finds her hot. With hair and makeup that make Brenda look like a less appealing version of Gozer from Ghostbusters, it seems bizarre that Kurt feels so attracted to her right off the bat. The work done to transform Paquin into Brenda just ensures that she looks odd and unnatural.

Perhaps I’d get past these visual distractions if Underdog ever felt like something more than just generic inspirational material. However, with the real Kurt and Brenda Warner as executive producers of the film, the possibility that it’ll dig into anything below the surface becomes nil.

Ultimately Underdog provides a wholly inoffensive drama that never threatens to do anything to violate its genre’s standard “terms of service”. We get predictable melodrama with a “feel good” message that remains completely, wholly ordinary and by the numbers.

Footnote: footage of some of the film’s real-life characters shows up at the conclusion of the end credits.

The Disc Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B/ Bonus B

American Underdog appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This turned into a solid image.

The film offered solid clarity. Virtually no softness materialized, so definition was positive and precise.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering appeared, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws failed to mar the presentation.

The film opted for a palette with a definite teal and amber tint. Within those parameters, the colors seemed fine.

Blacks were pretty deep and tight, while shadows appeared positive, with only a little opacity on occasion. Overall, the film provided appealing picture quality.

Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack suited the movie but won't win any awards. The soundstage appeared nicely broad at the appropriate times and could be moderately engulfing on occasion. It's a talky little film, so the focus was mainly up front, but the audio expanded when necessary.

This occurred mostly via music and environmental ambience – especially in terms of score and songs, as those used the various speakers well. Football games and a few sequences with intense weather added some range as well.

Sound quality seemed fine. Dialogue always appeared crisp and natural, and I had no trouble understanding it. The score was warm and distinctive.

Effects also seemed realistic and adequate for the tasks at hand. Underdog won't be anyone's demo track, but the mix worked well for the film.

The disc comes with a mix of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from directors Andrew and Jon Erwin and producer Kevin Downes. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at story/characters, facts and fiction, cast and performances, the impact of COVID on the production, sets and locations, cinematography and effects, editing, music and connected topics.

While we get some useful nuggets about the film, these come with an awful lot of happy talk, as the three participants frequently relate praise for all involved and everything about the movie. We find enough quality material to make the track decent, but I could really live without all the fluffiness.

A mix of featurettes follow, and Inspired lasts 16 minutes, eight seconds. It offers comments from the Erwins, executive produces Kurt and Brenda Warner, former coach Dick Vermeil, and actors Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, and Dennis Quaid.

“Inspired” examines cast and performances. Most of this winds up as happy talk about the actors.

Making the Cut spans 13 minutes, 45 seconds and involves the Erwins as well as editor Sean Anderson.

“Cut” views the editing process and works better than usual, mainly because it involves discussion of the test audience process. This winds up as a solid piece.

With A Coach’s Faith, we find a 30-minute, 48-second conversation between SNL actor Heidi Gardner and former Coach Dick Vermeil. They look at aspects of his life and career as well as his thoughts about Underdog.

Gardner seems like an odd choice, but she explains that her love of football got her the gig. She tosses softball questions at Vermeil, so don’t expect much, but the program offers a decent look at Vermeil’s experiences.

New to the Scene fills six minutes, 10 seconds and involves Levi, Brenda Warner, the Erwins, Downes, Paquin, and actor Hayden Zaller.

“Scene” looks at the involvement of young Zaller. He seems like a lovely kid but “Scene” never gives us much in terms of insights.

Next comes Meet the Champion, a 14-minute, 49-second reel that features a short chat between Kurt Warner and Coach Steve Mariucci. It then includes notes from Vermeil, Downes and the Erwins.

A feature that ran after “previews” of Underdog, we get some basics but the package feels superficial. In particular, the part with Warner and Mariucci disappoints given the latter’s small but pivotal role in Warner’s journey.

Behind the Game runs eight minutes, 13 seconds and features with the Erwins, Kurt and Brenda Warner, Levi and Paquin. They discuss aspects of the shoot, with an emphasis on the football scenes in this decent but often fluffy piece.

Lastly, Behind the Story lasts three minutes, 39 seconds and brings material from Kurt and Brenda Warner, the Erwins, Downes, Levi, Quaid and Paquin. It provides a general story overview and manages nothing more than promotional puffery.

11 Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 17 minutes, 44 seconds. Most of these offer minor character expansions, though some seem moderately valuable, like a longer look at adolescent Kurt, and a glimpse of his absentee dad.

Do any of these seem important? No, but fans should enjoy them.

We can view these with or without commentary from Andrew Erwin. He tells us background for the sequences and why they didn’t make the cut, so he adds positive notes.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we get previews under Also from Lionsgate. It brings ads for The Unbreakable Boy and The Jesus Music.

How can an inspirational tale seem as uninspired as American Underdog? Despite good source material, the movie suffers from actors too old for their roles and a wholesale embrace of banal clichés, without an original moment to be found. The Blu-ray boasts very good picture and audio along with a surprisingly long roster of bonus materials. This turns into a dull excuse for a character movie.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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