It still has a place in that darned Thanksgiving parade of balloons. But maybe you have to be a certain age and have a memory of a middling but endlessly re-run TV cartoon from the `60s to get a thrill from its theme song.
"When in this world the headlines read
"Of those whose hearts are filled with greed
"And rob and steal from those in need.
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"To right this wrong with blinding speed goes ... Underdog"
It wasn't much - under-plotted, under-animated, under-acted (by Wally Cox).
But at least it rhymed.
"There's no need to fear, Uuuunnn-derdog is here!"
And darned if Disney didn't screw it up. "Underdog" is the little summer movie that can't.
Brought to the screen as a live-action with (semi-animated) talking critters by the director of "Racing Stripes," and voice-acted by Jason Lee, who sounds embarrassed there aren't better jokes, this sleeping dog just lies there, waiting for something fun to happen.
Not much does.
The story - a beagle police dog washout is snatched by a mad scientist who tries to create a superdog, and by accident, does. The dog escapes, finds an owner (James Belushi, who knows a dog when he acts in one). And the new guy, who names the dog "Shoeshine" (don't ask) has a kid who could use a pooch.
Both boy (Alex Neuberger) and beagle discover the canine's super-powers. He can hear a cry for help from miles away, hurtle through walls, overpower man or beast, leap fire hydrants in a single bound. And speak.
"Bad dog! Stop talking!"
The beagle and the boy make time with a cute girl and her pampered spaniel, Polly Purebred (Amy Adams voices her). Until, that is, "the cry goes up from far and near for Unnnnn-derdog." Shoeshine dons cape and sweater, and saves the day.
Soon, Capital City's crime is under control (actually, they shot this in a digitally augmented Providence, R.I.). And little old Underdog is responsible.
The spark of life in this dog-yawn comes from mad scientist Simon Bar Sinister (Peter Dinklage), all bug-eyes under a forehead that screams "Evil Genius," and his henchman, played in a blond dye job by Patrick Warburton. The lines aren't funny, but they are.
If the talking dog's attempts at rhymes, at curb-your-dog jokes, what dogs-have-been-known-to-eat gags and the like had been half as funny as their genius-doofus banter, this might have risen to mediocrity.
As it is, it's a harmless bore. No, it wasn't the best TV `toon. But some parents will remember it fondly, especially that theme song.
The film beats it to death. There must be six versions on the soundtrack.
There's a taste of the old `toon in the opening credits as the current Underdog narrates that he remembers the old cartoon. He must've caught it on the new DVD boxed set. As should we all.
1 star (out of 5)
Cast: The voices of Jason Lee and Amy Adams, with Peter Dinklage, James Belushi, Patrick Warburton.
Director: Frederik du Chau
Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes
Industry rating: PG for rude humor, mild language and action.