Sunday 10 December 2023

Movie Review: American Underdog (2021)

Genre: Biographical Sports Drama
Directors: Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin 
Starring: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Dennis Quaid, Bruce McGill
Running Time: 112 minutes

Synopsis: In the early 1990s, Kurt Warner (Zachary Levi) is a back-up quarterback at the University of Northern Iowa, struggling for gametime. With his dream of being an NFL draft pick fading, he meets and falls in love with Brenda (Anna Paquin), a divorcee with two kids. After he fails a tryout with the Green Bay Packers, Kurt and Brenda struggle with poverty, and he accepts a job stocking supermarket shelves. A chance to star in the fledgling Arena Football League revitalizes Kurt's career, and he is offered an opportunity with the St. Louis Rams under legendary coach Dick Vermeil (Dennis Quaid).

What Works Well: Based on actual events, this is an inspirational and polished late bloomer drama. By focusing on Warner's professional wilderness years between leaving college and finally getting his NFL shot, directors Andrew and Jon Erwin deliver a human-based story about keeping the faith. Themes of overcoming adversity, finding love, and learning to value what really matters find heart through Warner's warm bond with Brenda's legally blind young son. The on-the-field scenes arrive at the right time and in the right doses, and carry the requisite bone-crunching authenticity.

What Does Not Work As Well: Despite a stoic performance, Zachary Levi at age 40 is too old to represent Warner starting from his early twenties. Both Kurt and Brenda are portrayed as near-perfect, which may very well be true, but nudges the movie towards a hagiography.  

Conclusion: A heart-warming, feel-good touchdown.

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