American Underdog

Starring: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Adam Baldwin, and Bruce McGill.

Directed By: The Irwin Brothers

Where I Watched it: Hulu is offering it without audio description. So I circumnavigated that process, and found a way to watch it with audio description since I’m apparently paying for the right through my subscription to watch this film. One day, Hulu might care about accessibility. Someday.

Description Provided By: Deluxe

Narrated By: Jedidiah Barton

The Plot: It’s the true story, or as close as you’ll ever get to it, of Kurt Warner (Levi) and his slow rise to football history, eventually becoming recognized as the best I drafted player ever in the NFL.

What Works: It’s a sports drama. I had literally no idea what this was. i saw in an article last Christmas about box office results that labeled this as faith based, and that really is a stretch. God is mentioned, but never preached about. This is not a film that’s laying on the teachings thick, it’s just that religion is important to Kurt, and his future wife (Paquin) so they talk about it. It’s a football movie, one that hilariously features Dennis Quaid in yet another movie about an over the hill athlete finally getting to reach their dreams of playing professional sports. While the real Kurt Warner was playing in the NFL, Quaid was releasing a little remembered baseball drama called The rookie. Now, he’s helping Zachary Levi realize a similar dream in a different sport.

Levi does some really great work here too. He’s always been likable, and I remember him from his Chuck days, so picturing him as a football player was a bit odd. I know he got jacked for Shazam, so I’m betting that’s how he got this film. And seeing Anna Paquin back in the limelight was nice too.

It’s a pretty beat for beat biopic about a sports icon. Has it been done better before? Sure. I love sports dramas more than I do watching actual sports, and there are a bunch of films I’d rather watch again before coming back to this. But, it was fine.

What doesn’t Work: There’s always this nagging feeling about doing a biopic of someone who is still alive, like we’re not going to get the full story. We’re getting a sanitized version of their life. If there was something unpleasant in Kurt Warner’s life, it wouldn’t be in this movie. Not only is he still kicking, he’s a producer on his own biopic, and so is his wife. This is very much the version they want you to see. Maybe his life really was this perfect, and he is just the nicest guy ever. But if he had one bump in the road, he’d just make sure it wasn’t in this inspirational drama.

Aside from that, like I said, the film just offers a sports drama that is fine for the moment, but doesn’t feel like it will be remembered years from now. Anyone remember Jason Sudekis in Race? Well, 10 years from now, I’ll ask the same question about this film. And there will be lots of scratching heads.

The Blind Perspective: First, I’m always down for some Jedidiah Barton narration. But the audio description is useful with all the sports drama going on, and making sure to use all the correct lingo. Blind people may not be able to see the football game, but there’s no reason we can’t listen to them. So, I’m sure there are plenty of football fans wanting to see this, and those football scenes can’t be faked. They were narrated very much with care.

I don’t think I’ve caught Barton doing bad narration. He’s one of a handful that always seems to be attached to what ends up being exceptional narration.

Final Thoughts: I liked it, I just didn’t love it. The performances are good, the story is fine, it feels a bit sanitized in its effort to be super inspirational. I’d feel better about it if the Warner’s weren’t producing a film about themselves. Then I might feel like we got more of a real story. But I think we just got the story they wanted us to hear.

Final Grade: B

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