In the late 1990s and early 2000s, I became a fair weather fan of the St. Louis Rams and their quarterback, Kurt Warner. Warner was an incredibly gifted athlete, but he also seemed like a down to earth guy who couldn’t help but put down roots. His movie should have been the same.
An equally down-to-earth guy, Zachary Levi, plays Warner opposite the talented Anna Paquin as Warner’s wife, Brenda. The problem with “American Underdog” is that it’s way too caught up in the romance between Kurt and Brenda Warner and not focused enough on how this overnight storer became an NFL superstar. Sadly, Warner’s football career looks like a footnote in the movie.
This was especially clear in the finale. In the film’s final scene, Warner stars in the 34th Super Bowl against the Tennessee Titans. Everything led to this. But after just a few plays in the movie, the game is over, and the editors have gone from fictional versions of the characters to images of actual individuals. This is how I knew the film was over.
Warner wins. The end. It was so anti-climatic. On second thought, the real emotional highlight of the film is Kurt and Brenda’s wedding, but the problem with that is, the film wasn’t marketed as a love story, so this romance just feels hollow and distracting.
To make matters worse, I can’t believe Levi falls for Paquin with the wrong wig. Paquin is beautiful and gives her all in this simple love story, but this wig challenges her every moment.
Levi isn’t helping himself either. He is an absolute charmer. He was great in “Shazam” and “Tangled,” but he’s just not a talented dramatic actor. His attempts to make us care about Warner’s fate are admirable, but it just doesn’t work because I never see Levi as Warner. I see this funny guy from “Shazam”. I think he has the ability, but he needs a better director to help him get into the Oscar race.
The directors, Jon and Andrew Erwin, are doing what they can with the script, but the project has been doomed from the start as the writers have focused on an aspect of Warner’s life that many of we don’t have any deep feelings. Instead, I wish the movie would focus on this man as a beacon of hope for Midwesters everywhere and his faith. I’m usually not a fan of movies with a Christian message because they’re often too old-fashioned for me, but this movie needed to lean more into it because it was horny in the dying moments, and that was awkward.
There is a good movie in Warner’s story, but that’s not it. In “American Underdog” the good actors are marred by an average script, and the directors keep trying to make a gripping football flick but are trapped in the romantic plot that only closest friends and the Warner family stick to. care. That said, it’s refreshing to see a live action movie that the whole family can see together. We haven’t had one for some time. So I leave you the choice if you want to give this outsider a chance as I did years ago.