He is a phenomenon, this lanky fellow named Snoop Dogg. Born Calvin Cordozar Broadus Jr., Dogg has become one of the most famous people on the planet. Many might not know, but he has a healthy acting career as well, apart from one in music. By healthy, I mean it’s filled with bit parts in pretty bad and forgettable movies, but sometimes he features in good ones too. The Underdoggs features a full-fledged performance by Snoop Dogg as the protagonist, and it is hilarious right from the beginning through to the end. Directed by Charles Stone III, The Underdoggs is a simple tale about a washed-up football star who returns to his roots to help the underprivileged kids in his old neighborhood achieve glory. I don’t know about you all, but I’ve seen this story a million times. There are some minor changes here and there in each rendition, but the crux remains the same. But what does this film have that’s not cliche? Snoop Dogg.
It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what Snoop Dogg is doing that makes him so easy to watch. Is it the almost rhythmic swearing that is trippingly flowing from his tongue? Is it the relaxed attitude that he carries anywhere he goes? I feel it’s the fact that he cares so much about his work but is not bound by its failure or success. It’s the total ‘worrylessness’ (there is no other word to describe it) of his persona that is very disarming. That’s what works for the story. Even when Snoop Dogg is frustrated and angry, there is a detached quality about him. The character that he portrays in the film seems to have been modeled on the perception people might have of him. Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings was once a star, but now he makes YouTube videos, which are just podcasts, about his glory days. Snoop Dogg toys with the idea of the loneliness of a successful man. Jennings was successful, but apparently he lost everything because of his bad attitude. Now I have no idea how Snoop Dogg handles success, but as the character, he is so sincere, as if giving a peek into what he would do if he lost it all.
The movie began with a very interesting disclaimer. The movie is rated R for foul language, but then it says we know the kids use even fouler language in real life, so we must all relax. The idea to derive comedy by giving kids extremely foul language as dialogue feels excessive. It’s one thing to have adults spout profanity, but hearing the kids say it was kind of off-putting. But the movie’s intention is clear: to tell the underdog story—a story that has been loved since time immemorial—and it’s because of this intention that the film never truly becomes unbearable.
As I said, the story has been told before, but so have all the other stories (almost!). The sports drama with a lot of humor is the go-to genre for the underdog story to fully reveal its potential. Snoop Dogg grabs hold of one end of the rope, and there are many on the other end to ensure that a healthy tension is maintained in the story’s thread. When Jennings gets into trouble after a rash driving incident, he is sentenced to mandatory community service, and that forces him to confront the folks in his hometown that he had left behind twenty years ago. Fortunately for him, he finds a football team of spunky boys that he gets to coach. The journey forward becomes one of learning that he had made some mistakes and that he wasn’t going to let the boys make the same ones. All this happens in the most Snoop Dogg-esque manner ever. Jennings never wanted to coach the team, but an old flame of his was their teacher, and the coaching just gave him an opportunity to stay near her. He gets support from his old friend Kareem, who becomes the assistant coach.
The surprise element of the movie is Andrew Schulz, who gets to play Jennings’ adversary. The stand-up comic does well to do his level best to portray Chip Collins, a man who can be said to be an equal and opposite force in Jennings’ way. As this is a Snoop Dogg film, the movie is pro-weed. He is known to be a strong advocate for marijuana usage, but the film doesn’t get derailed by forcing this point of view into the film. There is nothing in the film that one wouldn’t associate with Snoop Dogg. However, the other stuff that has been shown is always made organically closer to Dogg’s personality, which is why when the bombastic humor subsides and the sentimental subplot begins showing how Jennings had to help the poor kids to redeem himself, the performances don’t feel inauthentic. The movie has a solid foundation in the fact that Snoop Dogg started the Snoop Youth Football League in 2005 to help underprivileged kids, and that perhaps helps him bring an emotional groundedness to this uneven comedy film. The film loses a bit of steam though, right in the middle, but there was no point; it felt like it was dragging towards the finish line. In a sense, the movie is about love and fame and how fame is the great enemy of love because it fuels the ego too much. The one thing that bugged me in the film was that there was no real effort to have a good running joke, and the ones, like Kareem’s gun not having its safety on, were too lame to even have been repeated. The stoner-comedy aspect of the plot didn’t gel too nicely with the underdog story the film really is. Snoop Dogg is the heart of the film, and along with the kids, who look like they were cast based on their ability to pick a fight, they keep The Underdoggs afloat.