Rob Reviews "American Underdog"
NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner has a story that has BEGGED to be made into a film. He even turned it into a book called "All Things Possible". He is the only undrafted player to win both an NFL and Super Bowl MVP as well as the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl in his first season as the primary starter. In the season of giving and miracles, what better time for said film, "American Underdog," to get released.
Starting with his college career at The University of Northern Iowa, Warner (Zachary Levi) struggled to get play time as he butted heads with his coach, Terry Allen (reuniting Levi with his "Chuck" co-star Adam Baldwin). All he wants to do is play in the NFL, and as his college career starts to come to a close while he is editing his own "audition" tapes for pro scouts, he meets Brenda (Anna Paquin) at a country and western bar in their college town. Their love story is told in parallel with his professional ups and downs that involve his brief stint with the Packers, winding up stocking shelves at his local Hy-Vee (that's a grocery store in the Midwest to those unfamiliar), though the Arena League's Iowa Barnstormers and eventually to the St. Louis Rams (not without its struggles as well).
It is also no secret that faith has been a large part of their relationship for many years (which is a specialty from directors and brothers Jon and Andrew Erwin) , and what I appreciated here is that it is touched upon to the point where it is understood but also walks that line so that it doesn't beat the audience over the head with it. There may have been some liberties taken with the story as tends to happen with biopics to make it into that Hollywood-type of story, there was nothing here that made me growl at any point.
Levi is REALLY good here, doing his best to present Warner in the best light possible while the Erwins intertwine the actual footage from Warner's career into the staged action almost seamlessly. Even in shots where Warner himself is used, certain angles blurred the lines for me. I never quite had Paquin disappear into the role of Brenda (even with the haircut), but she and Levi do have good chemistry together. There are also some great turns by Baldwin, Bruce McGill, Chance Kelly, and Dennis Quaid (whose Dick Vermeil didn't quite get here from a portrayal standpoint, but he is great and can do anything he wants and I am here for it).
"American Underdog" definitely takes its place amongst the other films its directors have done like "I Can Only Imagine," "Woodlawn, "I Still Believe," and others as enjoyable and ones I would consider owning at some point. In this holiday season, take the family with you and get inspired to be the best you can be with this story and get ready for the NFL playoffs at the same time!