If you have any doubt about exactly what you are in for with Snoop Dogg’s first-ever starring role in a mainstream movie, The Underdoggs, you won’t after seeing the disclaimer that pops up on screen at the start of the film.
THE FOLLOWING MOVIE IS RATED-R FOR STRONG LANGUAGE THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.
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BUT F**K ALL THAT.
YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT THE KIDS WHO AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE WATCHING THIS SH*T CURSE MORE THAN THE REST OF US MOTHERF**KERS.
SO STOP WORRYING, KICK BACK, RELAX AND ENJOY THE MOTHERF**KING SHOW…
Any questions? The Underdoggs is a descendant of foul-mouthed R-rated comedies like Bad Santa merged with kid-driven sports movies like The Mighty Ducks (which it references in one scene) and especially The Bad News Bears, which was about a ragtag Little League team who cussed a lot and were coached by a cranky Walter Matthau. That 1976 movie was clearly the inspiration for this one, which finds its own rhythm and reason for existing thanks to Snoop Dogg, who finally gets a leading role on screen and runs with it as the at-first reluctant coach of a group of Long Beach kids on a hopeless pee-wee football team that keeps losing its coaches.
Snoop is not playing himself here but rather a one-time high school and college football star, Jaycen “2 Js” Jennings, who gets drafted into the pros and becomes a sensational wide receiver. But his assholiness and miserable personality doom his career, making him a laughing stock of the ESPN-style sports shows, particularly one hosted by Chip Collins (Andrew Schultz), who constantly takes him down. When a doozy of an accident lands him in front of a judge (Kandi Burruss), he is sentenced to 300 hours of community service picking up dog poop at the local Long Beach park where he played as a kid.
Spotting a bunch of kids trying to pull themselves together as a team, he at first wants nothing to do with them — until he comes up with the idea he could revive his career by becoming their coach, bringing them to glory, and then selling the movie rights. The film, directed by Charles Stone III and written by Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis, appears to be taking a wink-wink at the cliché of past films in this genre, but in no time falls right in line with what we expect. Jaycen takes a liking to these kids and actually starts whipping them into shape.
He also engages with his ex-girlfriend from his high school days, Cherise (Tika Sumpter), whose kid Tre is on the team, and he sees this as a way to get back with her, but she ain’t having it. She knows he’s bad news. He also reunites with his old buddy Kareem (Mike Epps), who hasn’t advanced much from the time they were both 12 years old but nevertheless becomes the self-appointed assistant coach. There are also a couple of heartfelt scenes with George Lopez as Jaycen’s old high school football Coach Feis, who tries to give him some advice. The bulk of the film deals with Jaycen moving the team into contention against their better equipped and much bigger rivals led by the obnoxious Chip, his arch nemesis. Of course, complications arise when his coaching starts paying dividends and his career starts to turn around, but at what cost?
The idea for this film actually came from Snoop’s own life and the Snoop Youth Football League he started in 2005 in Long Beach, CA for underrepresented kids — and where Snoop was actually a coach. It has brought in 85,000 kids, sent 20,000 to play college ball, and 25 to the pros. That is where the resemblance stops, except for the unabashed language which is as raunchy as it gets and very R-rated. The kid actors were chosen partially on their comfort and ability to cuss like drunken sailors. It is hilarious, and most comfortable of all is Snoop, who acquits himself nicely as a guy who for whom redemption seems hopeless, but along with being a razor-sharp comedy this one knows when to show its heart. If you don’t have a problem with the words coming out of their mouths, The Underdoggs is a highly entertaining couple of hours for the whole family (don’t sue me). Amazon is going streaming for this, but with theaters being strapped for new releases in early 2024, this crowd-pleaser would have benefitted by being seen with a big crowd who would eat it up.
The kids who make up the Underdoggs are perfectly cast, each with sharply defined individual personalities. Sumpter is lovely and understated, a nice anchor to the men here, and Epps is terrific as Snoop’s comic foil and sidekick. Kal Penn is also in for a few scenes on the other side of a phone call as Jaycen’s flummoxed agent. Of course, the team’s mascots are, you guessed it, a couple of lovable bulldog(g)s. Look for cameos from the Fox Sports broadcast team.
Producers are Kenya Barris, Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg), Constance Schwartz-Morini, Mychelle Deschamps and Jonathan Glickman.
Title: The Underdoggs
Distributor: Amazon MGM Studios
Release Date: January 26, 2024 (steaming on Prime Video)
Director: Charles Stone III
Screenwriters: Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis
Cast: Snoop Dogg, Tike Sumpter, Mike Epps, Andrew Schultz, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss, George Lopez, Jonigan Booth, Kylah Davila, Caleb CM Dixon, Adan James Carrillo, Alexander Michael Gordon, Shamori Washington.
Running time: 1 hr 41 min