The Underdoggs (2024)

The Underdoggs Review

The Underdoggs

In The Underdoggs, an ex-soccer player named Jaycen “2 J’s” Jennings (Snoop Dogg) is brought back to his roots when he is required to serve out community service hours in his hometown, a place he hasn’t visited since becoming famous. With his career over and being widely disliked, Jaycen sits alone in his mansion getting high. He decides to coach Cherise (Tika Sumpter), an old flame of his and mother of one of the kids on her son’s pee wee football team, for his community service but also because he wants to get closer to her again. He brings along Kareem (Mike Epps), a high school buddy who has burned out on life, and occasionally seeks advice from his old coach (George Lopez). What he doesn’t realize is that going home might make him have to face where he came from and where he belongs.


Oh, the underdog trope in children’s sports movies. It pops up about once every few years since 1976’s “The Bad News Bears” set the standard, still using David-and-Goliath as a metaphor for teams of scrappy misfits rising up against insurmountable odds in championship games. Some are great like “Hoosiers” or”The Mighty Ducks”; others just come and go.

But no movie has sunk so low or moved so slowly or seemed less interested in giving it a real go than “The Underdoggs,” which is less a sports drama than it is an excuse for child actors to curse at each other and pretend to be wasted. I wish I could say it had good intentions but there’s nothing redeeming about a movie that refuses even the lowest-stakes football game let alone the fictional sports team a fair shot at winning over audiences’ hearts and minds. It was hopeless for these young actors saddled with this lazy, half-baked (though baked if you catch the double entendre) script.

Picture it: Snoop Dogg, as always, plays that proverbial atoning coach. His name is Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings in this one a washed up ex-pro football player whose ego and recklessness got him into a car crash. He’s been upset that people like Chip Collins (Andrew Schulz) have been talking down about him and that his agent (Kal Penn) has been brushing him off and not seeing his worth. Jaycen drives furiously while angry and gets hit by a city bus. He’s then sentenced to community service in Long Beach, California where he grew up.

Dressed in his designer clothes and reluctantly picking up trash, Jaycen bumps into his old flame Cherise (Tika Sumpter). Cherise’s son Tre (Jonigan Booth) plays for a coach-less football team, so Jaycen fills in. And he’s ready to whip the kids into shape except there’s not a ton of football happening. There’s a lot of smack talk, and some sequences you’d expect from an underdog sports film. There’s a party at Jaycen’s mega-mansion, where he looks back on old times with Cherise while the children left unsupervised by the pool drink until they’re drunk and then pee in it. The movie also dedicates significant time to Jaycen driving the kids home or hanging around with old friend-turned-assistant-coach Kareem (Mike Epps).

George Lopez has a completely pointless cameo as Jaycen’s former high school football coach with a storyline that spoiler alert! reminds Jaycen about the love of the game vs. endorsement deals, which rings hollow and futile.

The ending goes about as expected: After his good deed coaching gig for “The Mighty Ducks” team goes viral and so does his arrest video, Jaycen is offered work as a sports pundit alongside other football stars Michael Strahan and Terry Bradshaw. But his first day on set coincides with the pee-wee championships against Chip’s team. What’s a begrudging coach to do?!

The championship football game goes pretty much how you assume it does, save for one moment: The Underdoggz lose. But it isn’t too big of a letdown because, after all their swaggering with second-place pride throughout the season with Jaycen, given little else to work with; keeping everyone heart-ing along, Snoop Dogg never overdoing it on emotion anyway; apparently being bored by these kids throughout filming Snoops disinterest the team loses.

The movie begins with a warning to audiences about inappropriate language and drug paraphernalia. But if you were expecting a Snoop Dogg movie without either, then you are unfamiliar with Snoop Dogg movies or maybe just this one. Because instead of stretching himself as an actor and stepping outside his comfort zone, Snoop signed onto a project that required the least amount of work possible on his part. Maybe this is what his fans want from him, but we’re ready for a different Dogg movie.

But it is not completely garbage. In fact, there’s a satire on society through the setting and characterizations, like the friend who knows that his face tattoos will never let him get employed or the boy who doesn’t want people to know he lives in a trailer park. There’s also community pride and some funny throwaways for Snoop fans, including jokes about real-life bestie Martha Stewart or his “Black Princess Leia” braids. A happy ending ties up loose ends but not too neatly as scrappy as the rest of the film. Eventually Snoop’s character realizes that no man is an island, even with a massive mansion; true identity and joy come from fitting in. It’s packaged as a universal message but will only be appealing to few people at most.

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