The Underdoggs: A celebration of Snoop Dogg's sports impact

The Underdoggs is a 2024 American sports comedy-drama film. PHOTO | POOL

Hollywood is notorious for recycling concepts, especially if they have proven to be successful before. In recent years, we have seen an influx of sequels and prequels, even within the superhero genre, that often feel stale and uninspired. That is why when original movies like The Creator come along, they are a breath of fresh air. They show us that there is still room for creativity and innovation in the film industry and that taking risks can pay off. Of course, not every original movie is a masterpiece, and sometimes sticking to a familiar formula can work better than experimenting with something new.

That was my dilemma when I heard that Snoop Dogg was going to star in a sports comedy, The Underdoggs. You see, I knew exactly what to expect from this genre: a ragtag team of misfits who overcome their differences and challenges to win the big game, with jokes here and there plus heart along the way.

But this is not supposed to be just any other sports comedy. This is directed by Charles Stone III, who previously worked on Uncle Drew, another sports comedy that was surprisingly good with its charm and humour. Apart from that Kenya Barris, the man behind hit TV shows and movies that focus on African American culture, such as Black-ish and You People, is the producer. So with such a talented and diverse team behind the scenes, this movie had to be different, right?

The Underdoggs

The Underdoggs is a 2024 American sports comedy-drama film that follows a washed-up former pro football star who hits rock bottom and is sentenced to community service coaching a rowdy American football team in his hometown. Through coaching the unruly children, he may turn his life around and rediscover his love of football.

It stars Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Andrew Schulz, Mike Epps, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss and George Lopez.

This is not a family movie, it is rated R for pervasive language, sexual references, some underage drinking, and of course, drug use, as it stars Snoop Dogg.

The film strangely feels more like a celebration of Snoop Dogg’s real-life involvement with the Snoop Youth Football League since 2005, which is revealed at the end of the film with a card and some photos of him with the children in the programmes as the closing credits play.

The good

The film's opening effectively sets up the tone and the protagonist Jaycen who is played by Snoop Dogg and Elias Ferguson (younger self), otherwise known as Two Js. Within the first 10 minutes, we know exactly who he is.

The film uses voice-overs and juxtapositions of scenes to create a coherent flow of events that makes the story move smoothly. Add a familiar structure and you get a movie that never at any point loses its audience.

The film also uses a lot of slang and profanity, which gives it a realistic and authentic feel. The language is not used for shock value, but rather to reflect the characters and their backgrounds.

The film also features Andrew Schulz as the “villain”, a rival coach who is hilarious. His random one-liners and insults make his short screen time worthwhile.

The Underdoggs succeeds in its simplicity, giving each child's mini-arc so that by the third act, the underdog narrative becomes poignant, showcasing the unique facets that make these children tick. Noteworthy moments, particularly those involving a character named Ghost, contribute to the film's "likeable effect".

While Jaycen's character arc may not break new ground, Snoop Dogg injects fresh energy through his humorous delivery and evolving outfits. The film's charm lies in these refinements, offering a delightful twist to the familiar sports movie formula.

There are a lot of funny moments and small details. For example, a lot of scenes with Mike Epps' character are deep but it takes a minute to register because they are casually presented with humour. The on-screen hashtags add a layer of humour, creating some funny moments which you might miss if you are not keen enough.

Achilles' heel

Despite its strengths, the film's Achilles' heel is its predictability. If you have watched the Mighty Ducks or any other underdog sports story, you'll find this narrative formulaic.

Cherise, portrayed by Tika Sumpter, falls victim to a lack of substantial character development, reduced to being the main character's past and current love interest.

Visually, the cinematography falls short, especially given its $30 million budget. Though it was on streaming (prime video) I expected a concerted effort towards a visually stunning experience since Kenya Barris was attached. I thought the film would borrow the visual language of BlackAF.

Final word

In summary, while the film may not present a groundbreaking story, its saving grace lies in the performances of Snoop Dogg, the children, and Andrew Schulz.

The R rating, often considered unnecessary, surprisingly adds authenticity, enhancing the overall narrative. As the credits roll, it becomes evident that this is more than just a film; it's a celebration of Snoop Dogg's real-life impact on the Snoop Youth Football League, making it an entertaining watch despite its familiar plot trajectory."

X: @stanslausmanthi

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