“The Underdoggs” stars Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Andrew Schulz, Mike Epps, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss, and George Lopez. Released on Prime Video on January 26, 2024, the film has a former NFL player coaching a youth football team to avoid prison.
The film was directed by Charles Stone III, who also directed films such as “Drumline,” “Mr. 3000”, “Lila & Eve,” and “Uncle Drew.” You can tell that I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for more content to review because the last week of January was as empty as a hole. Sure, we had a new movie featuring Jenna Ortega making her teacher’s life a living hell, but other than that, we didn’t have a lot of exciting stuff to look forward to until February. In times like this, you had to resort to desperate measures, and that’s relying on our streaming services to fill our empty void. That’s how I stumbled upon this adult comedy with rapper Snoop Dogg playing football—the words we never expect to hear in 2024. Well, I guess anything’s better than doing nothing all week. Let’s see if I made the right choice.
The story follows Jaycen Jennings (Dogg), a professional football player at the top of his game. However, that all changed when his popularity began to wane due to his arrogant attitude, and an incident landed him in hot water. Jaycen is sentenced to community service in his hometown of Long Beach, California, where he’s hired to coach an unruly, foul-mouthed pee-wee football team. Despite the odds stacked against him, including the team’s lack of experience, Jaycen sees this as an opportunity to turn his career around. While attempting to lead his young team to the championship, Jaycen is forced to reconnect with his past and rediscover his love of football.
If you can’t tell by the film’s plot and title, it’s another scenario involving a washed-up sports player or coach leading a team of misfits to victory and learning to become a better person. Plenty of sports movies rely on this formula to provide a feel-good essence to their audiences, like “The Mighty Ducks” and “Rebound.” Some of them are entertaining regarding the cast and direction, while others are underwhelming due to them not adding anything new or fresh to the structure. Based on that information, I didn’t have high hopes for this, but I watched it anyway because of my soft spot for sports movies, especially ones made for adults. While I wasn’t expecting anything refreshing from its tried-and-true formula, I should at least have a fun time watching “The Underdoggs.” Unfortunately, it surprisingly lacks the skillsets to pull off this easy play.
“The Underdoggs” has a simplistic, by-the-numbers formula that would’ve easily made for a heartfelt and entertaining depiction of the importance of friends and family over success. It’s also about the love of the game that unites us and makes us better people. Sure, it has some corny moments we’ve seen multiple times, but if they make me smile with their charm and heart, that stuff hardly matters. With “The Underdoggs” being an R-rated comedy, it had the task of providing those similar qualities from its structure while balancing them with the raunchiness, such as the language and sex references. Spoiler alert: the kids perform these similar actions, and they drink. Sadly, its execution got way more penalties than it should have.
The screenplay by Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis was an extremely fundamental genre list that checks all of the underdog sports trope boxes, including a washed-up, self-centered sports celebrity and a team of outsiders. It resulted in plenty of predictable moments that you can catch on the fly before they happen, which isn’t too surprising considering how popular and relatable the plot is. However, its biggest crime was how uncharismatic and repetitive the dialogue turned out. While it wasn’t risque enough to be an uncomfortable watch, it got highly tiring way too quickly with its several one-trick ponies that weren’t that funny. Those include the formulaically mediocre characters and the language. Look, I get it. It’s an R-rated comedy, and people are allowed to swear multiple times to show that it’s not a Disney movie. But that doesn’t mean the adult language can be used almost every few seconds. I’m not saying that adult language isn’t funny, as several adult comedies proved that characters dropping “F-Bombs” can be humorous. But when used way more than it should have without combining them with fresh and fun ideas, it can make the characters’ personalities more tedious and irritating than amusing. “The Underdoggs” easily fits that bill, mainly for Jaycen, who I just wanted to strangle every time he cusses repeatedly. In short, the film gets penalized for its unnecessary barrage of unfunny adult language.
Charles Stone III is no stranger to sports movies, especially ones that fit the comedy category. I haven’t watched his other movies except for 2018’s “Uncle Drew,” but it’s enough for me to admire his approach of delivering an enjoyable mixture of comedy, sports action, and heart. Sure, “Uncle Drew” had the same issues as “The Underdoggs” narrative-wise, but Stone relied on its cast and charm to make its formula surprisingly watchable. So, it made sense he was hired to direct this movie. Unfortunately, he couldn’t perform the same trick play he performed for “Uncle Drew” to save “The Underdoggs” from being a tasteless and bland experience from start to finish. The charm and heart in Stone’s direction were almost nonexistent, mainly due to the unlikeable characters and the inclusion of genre tropes that lacked the spirit they’re known for. There have been some attempts to turn this game around, but they’re quickly wasted on the desire to make the kids swear up a storm. The second half wasn’t as bad as the first regarding the direction of the adult language, but the journey of getting to that point was like nails on a chalkboard. It’s ear-gratingly exhausting.
If there’s one thing I learned from “The Underdoggs,” believe it or not, it’s that Snoop Dogg is a big sports fan, especially football. The film was inspired by Dogg’s youth football league (Snoop Youth Football League), which he’s been operating since 2005 and was explored in the Netflix docu-series “Coach Snoop.” So, I can see why he wanted to get this movie made. It's too bad the movie wasn’t special enough to admire his love of the sport. To be fair, Dogg has a respectable presence as an actor outside his rapping career, and his performance in “The Underdoggs” is no different. While his role as Jaycen was passable at best, it’s not enough to overshadow the character’s irritatingly charmless personality that’s intentional but poorly handled. The rest of the cast deserved way better than what they were given despite their efforts in carrying the movie. Mike Epps tried way too hard to be annoyingly funny as Kareem that it came off as...well, annoying. Tika Sumpter was the most tolerable of the bunch, but only because her character, Cherise, has the most common sense than the rest of them.
Overall, “The Underdoggs” lacks the trick plays and team spirit needed to elevate its painfully crude and boringly predictable game. While it isn’t without Snoop Dogg being his usual self onscreen, it’s not enough to make its bland, by-the-numbers sports formula more fun and exciting than it should have. Instead of being another flawed yet watchable underdog movie filled with silly laughs and heart, “The Underdoggs” is a charmless, vulgar, and tedious genre blueprint that offers neither the humor nor the soul of the similar films that came before it. The only admirable thing about the movie is that I learned how much of a football fan Snoop Dogg is. Otherwise, this is one of the worst films of 2024 regarding its formulaic screenplay, repetitive adult humor, unlikable characters, and weak direction. If you like watching sports underdog movies regardless of the quality, you might get some enjoyment from this one, but there’s a good chance you’ll forget about it in a day after watching it.