Film reviews and more since 2009

The Underdoggs (2024) review

Dir. Charles Stone III

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★½

I don’t think I’ve seen a comedy this unabashedly vulgar since Good Boys in 2019. Or maybe the shock of seeing prepubescent kids hurling F-bombs among other obscenities just makes me believe that. The Underdoggs is a splendid candidate for one of my favorite Wikipedia articles ever: “List of films that most frequently use the word fuck.” Somebody needs to put on The Underdoggs and have a counter handy because I have a sneaky suspicion it would land in the top 30, maybe even top 20.

Ultimately, that doesn’t mean squat unless the movie is funny, and thankfully, The Underdoggs is better than its cocktail-napkin-premise would suggest. Starring America’s favorite stoner, the film revolves around Snoop Dogg’s Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings, a washed-up NFL wide receiver whose diva-like antics make Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. look like choir boys. The #1 pick in the draft, who went on to have an all-time great career, Jaycen hits rock bottom after a viral video of him crashing his sports car forces him to perform community service in his hometown of Long Beach, CA.

With the help of his reckless deadbeat pal Kareem (Mike Epps), Jaycen concocts a perfect way to bolster his image. He will coach a misbegotten group of middle-schooler football players. At first, Jaycen is more concerned with tweeting photos of him and the kids for likes and hitting on his old crush, Cherise (Tika Sumpter), the mother of one of the players. However, when one of his harshest critics (comedian Andrew Schulz) shows up as the coach of their rivals, Jaycen has almost no choice but to take this gig seriously. He spends thousands on equipment and uniforms branding the team as the “Underdoggs.”

Oh, how I feared this would be another insufferable sit ala the Snoop/Wiz Khalifa-comedy Mac & Devin Go to High School. Alas, The Underdoggs is more than an endless array of marijuana jokes. It might follow the underdog(g) sports movie formula to a tee, but it’s made at least lightly entertaining thanks to a barrage of familiar faces. Andrew Schulz, a wickedly funny comic who has made a name for himself on TikTok, essentially does double-duty as a trash-talking sports podcaster by day and a coach by night. Kal Penn is Jaycen’s agent, who cares little about his hack client until his reputation begins to improve. Mike Epps has one big laugh in the third act when he’s acting as interim coach and throws out a heinously (hilariously) altered quote from scripture, and George Lopez plays Jaycen’s high school coach. Then you have a laundry list of cameos, everyone from Tony Gonzalez to Terry Bradshaw and Michael Strahan, who are all given something to say/do.

While the football team remains more of a collective than a group of individuals, Tre (Jonigan Booth) is afforded the most screentime. The diminutive quarterback with the fledgling dual-threat abilities of Lamar Jackson, Tre has the same cocky attitude Jaycen possessed at his age. As Jaycen starts to embrace his role as a leader of men, he affords the young boy some wisdom when he starts believing his teammates (and coach) are simply losers.

None of this is high art, mind you. It’s all pretty predictable and the project has that glossy streaming sheen that most films of this ilk bear. The surprise is the mostly consistent comedy that, while maybe defined by an endless stream of vulgarities, is at least keep light-hearted and nimble thanks to the performers. Snoop oozes charisma, but you feel his most brash sensibilities make Jaycen Jennings into an unlikable yet fiercely watchable caddish character. This is also the first Snoop project in a while that doesn’t feel like it was written, directed, and produced by marijuana. Instead, it was directed by Charles Stone III, who knows nothing if not how to get a one-sentence summary of a movie (Uncle Drew) going.

NOTE: The Underdoggs is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Starring: Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Andrew Schulz, Mike Epps, Jonigan Booth, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss, and George Lopez. Directed by: Charles Stone III.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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