Story

Underdog follows the exciting adventures of a failed Beagle sniffer-dog. He develops supernatural abilities after accidental exposure to a mad scientist’s experimental DNA formula.

Self-proclaimed ‘visionary’ Dr Simon Barsinister (Peter Dinklage) and his assistant Cad (Patrick Warburton) capture Underdog (voiced by Jason Lee). They want to use him in their animal experimentation program, which aims to develop an army of super-powered animals. While trying to escape the mad doctor’s laboratory, Underdog is doused in the experimental serum. This gives him incredible powers of speed, strength and the ability to fly and speak English.

Underdog is adopted by security guard Dan Unger (James Belushi). He takes the Beagle home as a pet for his teenage son Jack (Alex Neuberger). Jack initially resents the dog (whom they name Shoeshine), seeing it as a token gift from a father who is almost never home. But the two soon make friends. When Jack discovers the Beagle’s amazing abilities, he decides to keep it a secret. Jack encourages Shoeshine to use his extraordinary gifts to help others. His amazing rescues make the Beagle a super-hero.

Meanwhile, Dr Barsinister plots to capture Underdog to retrieve the experimental DNA he needs to take over the country. There is a final showdown between Underdog, the mad doctor, his assistant Cad, and the doctor’s three trained German Shepherd dogs.

Themes

Kidnapping of animals; experimentation on animals; bullying

Violence

  • The movie shows repeated verbal harassment of Shoeshine/Underdog by a gang of three stray dogs.
  • The chief of police verbally harasses Dan Unger.
  • During a mugging, thieves scruff Molly (Jack’s girlfriend) by her shirt.
  • After a failed kidnapping attempt by Dr Barsinister’s assistant, Underdog drags Cad over several city blocks. Cad smacks into a fire hydrant, a street sign and assorted city refuse.
  • Dr Barsinister uses his three aggressive German Shepherd dogs to threaten the mayor, Dan Unger and Underdog.
  • Underdog knocks Dr Barsinister over with a large marble dome.
  • Dr Barsinister chases Underdog with a large sword.
  • Dr Barsinister throws a large shield at Underdog.
  • Underdog knocks Cad down several steps.
  • The three aggressive German Shepherd dogs turn on Dr Barsinister and surround him menacingly.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

  • In one scene, Dr Barsinister injects himself with the DNA formula and then becomes super-human.
  • Several scenes show close-ups of the mad scientist’s sinister facial expressions.
  • There are several close-ups of aggressive, snarling German Shepherds.

From 5-8

  • Children in this age group could be disturbed by references to animal experimentation in Dr Barsinister’s laboratory.
  • Dan accidentally runs over Underdog.
  • Dr Barsinister kidnaps Dan.
  • Underdog surrenders himself to Dr Barsinister to prevent either Jack or his father being hurt by the mad scientist.
  • After saving the city from Dr Barsinister’s bomb, Underdog is blasted into outer-space. It seems as though he has died.

From 8-13

Younger children in this age group could also be disturbed by some of the scenes described above. They might be particularly upset by references to experiments on animals and the scene where Underdog seems to be dead.

Over 13

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this movie.

Sexual references

None

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Product placement

None

Coarse language

None

Ideas to discuss with your children

Underdog is a fast-paced family comedy/drama pitched at children under 15. It is also likely to be enjoyed by older audiences, who will appreciate several clever references to the Superman film series.

The main message from this movie is that we are all ‘born for greatness’. We will uncover a wealth of wonderful things inside ourselves if we don’t give up. The movie presents the values of faithfulness, persistence, courage and empathy. You could talk about these values with your children, as well as:

  • the consequences of verbal and physical harassment
  • the inappropriateness of using violence to solve problems
  • our responsibility to care for animals.