“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I remember the ‘99 season of the NFL better than most seasons for a few reasons. My initial reason for watching is that just two years prior I became a lifelong, for better or worse, Denver Broncos fan. In the ‘97 and ‘98 seasons Denver became back to back Super Bowl Champions. I was hooked. And then came the underdog story for the ages. Led by a nobody in the league, Kurt Warner became the American dream in just 16 short games. Of course, there is a bit more to it than that and American Underdog is a glimpse into the journey this man took to reach the pinnacle of modern day sports.
A strength in storytelling is to take a subject some might have no interest in and make it too enticing to pass up. Some simply don’t care about football but I think the idea of achieving a lifelong dream is something we can all aspire to. Warner did something most of us wish we could with our own dreams. The obstacles in place of something so lofty and virtually unobtainable is unimaginable and as Warner says in the film, pretty much impossible. According to this film over one million people play football in their youth. Of those million 5% play in college. And of those 5% only 1% makes it to the NFL. Even then, once in the NFL, to have a career longer than three years is uncommon. To become a quarterback is even harder to reach and yet despite so much adversity this man defeated the odds.
With age comes a ticking clock as is the way of life. But in the world of sports that clock ticks much faster. As time ticked against him he held steadfast and pushed forward. On top of his aging body was a myriad of people telling him he can’t do it. That simple and blunt, he can’t do it. To imagine such adversity and the dream in question is still achieved is nothing short of amazing. This is the story of Kurt Warner. A man who believed in himself and became an NFL quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and led them, as a virtual nobody, to the promised land that was the ‘99 season Super Bowl XXXIV (34) and won. He would leave that game as the MVP of the league and the game. His story is widely considered one of the greatest underdog stories ever.
Zachary Levi plays Kurt Warner. While I’ve heard the actual Warner speak, I can’t exactly attest to Levi’s accuracy to Warner’s mannerisms and accent. What I can say is that no matter how much of each man was present on screen I’m confident that Warner and his family are more than pleased with the final result. I have to be upfront with this part so I’ll simply say I’m not a believer in the great bearded man in the sky. A bit too far fetched for me. I would say it goes further than simply not believing spilling over into a general distaste for any and all religion. So when a movie is a bit heavy handed with the religion rhetoric I tend to roll my eyes in embarrassment. American Underdog at times feels like a movie that should be starring Kirk Cameron as he tries to recruit more mindless dopes into the Christian faith. But I digress with my anti-religion talk.
While it can be a bit much at times for someone like me I can’t fault the movie for going the religious route. If that was part of this man’s story then it absolutely should be included, whether I like it or not. All my religious apprehensions aside, the movie still produces a great amount of inspirational scenes. To see a man look upon his heroes and aspire to be like them and to not only do so but surpass them is a trait of a hero himself.
Along with all of his football achievements are the personal ones he saw come true even if some of those dreams he didn’t even realize were there waiting for him to find. The love of his life pushed him in the moments when he doubted himself. Her children became his as he saw the strength of his son, a boy blind at an early age, surpass everyone who said he wouldn’t walk or talk or live past a certain year of his life. He beat the odds as his own father looked to him for inspiration in the moments when he felt bad for himself or less than worthy as a father, a husband and an aspiring football player.
While the overall execution of this story is nothing special, it’s really all about the story itself, a story of amazing fortitude in the face of immense adversity. The basic structure of a sports film has been solidified with films like Rocky and Warrior and while it can feel a bit repetitive at times, if the story is interesting and the cast has found the truth in their performances as real life people, the familiar aspects get lost in the profound and in that regard, American Underdog is an achievement all its own. Kurt Warner did more than the next ten people combined and did so with his soul intact. Never feeling the need to step on someone to further himself, his story is one everybody should hear in their lifetime. It may not be on par with the best sports films, it’s still more than worthy of the attention it receives. I would argue the overall goal of this movie, other than to tell Warner’s story, is to inspire and it certainly left me deep in my emotions as I looked back on my own life and what I hope for my own future. American Underdog is family friendly storytelling based on a real life American determined as they come and humble every step of the way.
Rated PG For: some language and thematic elements
Runtime: 112 minutes
After Credits Scene: Yes
Genre: Biography, Drama, Sport
Starring: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Hayden Zaller, Dennis Quaid
Directed By: Andrew and Jon Erwin
Out of 10 Nerdskulls
Story: 10/ Acting: 8.5./ Directing: 7/ Visuals: 7
OVERALL: 7.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes.
Check out the trailer below:
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