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Underdog - fantasy DVD / family DVD review
UNDERDOG rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Actors: Jason Lee, James Belushi, Peter Dinklage, Patrick Warburton, Alex Neuberger
Director: Frederik du Chau   Studio: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 18 December 2007   Runtime: 82 minutes (1 disc)
Format: Digital Sound, Dolby, Full Screen, Widescreen, NTSC
DVD features: Audio tracks (English, Dolby Digital 5.1; French, Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish, Dolby Digital 2.0), Subtitles (English, French, Spanish), "Underdog Raps" music video, "Sit, Stay, Act: Diary of a Dog Actor," "Safe Waif" Underdog original cartoon episode, Bloopers, Deleted scenes

At first glance, the movie Underdog seems a bit of a stretch. The plot is completely implausible, and turning a cartoon into a live-action movie is always problematic. But after watching the episode of the original Underdog cartoon that's included in the new DVD release, I have to admit the movie actually captures the first humble and loveable Shoeshine quite well. The superhero dog is a bit of a bumbler who unwittingly smashes though walls, sometimes leaps before he looks, and needs to perfect his landings. And, just like in the cartoon, the humans actually do say, "It's a plane! It's a bird! It's a frog!"

The storyline features a sneezing, mistake-prone police dog who gets laughed off the force by his fellow canines. Out on the streets alone, he gets picked up by mad scientist Simon Barsinister and his henchman, Cad. In a lab accident, the dog acquires super strength, speed, hearing, and the ability to talk (voice by "Alvin and the Chipmunks" star Jason Lee). He escapes and is found by a down-and-out former policeman, Dan (Jim Belushi), and his son, Jack (Alex Neuberger), who name the dog Shoeshine. Jack and Shoeshine - who have both had their troubles in the past - figure out together that the dog now has superpowers; then they decide how to use them, and Underdog, the fighter of evil, is born. Meanwhile, a disfigured Barsinister wants the super-dog, who is now grabbing all the headlines, back under his power. It's basic good versus evil.

Peter Dinklage plays Simon Barsinister perfectly, but Cad (Patrick Warburton) is hard to figure out. I never knew how the character was going to act next. The rest of the cast does a good job, and even the space shuttle makes a cameo.

The story is simplistic and predictable, but Underdog is very family-friendly - no strong language, humor that everyone in the family can appreciate, and good special effects. Special features include bloopers and deleted scenes, a music video, a feature on dog actors, and the first original Underdog cartoon, "Safe Waif." The DVD Underdog will be a good last-minute stocking stuffer this holiday season.
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reviewed by Nancy Atkinson
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