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movie review

TLO Film Review: American Underdog

4:26 AM EST on January 7, 2022

Why is it that every time I sit down to watch a film by the Christ-heavy Erwin Brothers, I usually end up with a steady rate of tears flowing down my full cheeks? I only ask because it happened again with their latest flick, American Underdog, the inspirational story of former NFL MVP Kurt Warner, a man I never knew existed until I watched this film.

When the movie starts, the 41-year-old Zachary Levi plays the college-aged Warner, an eternally-benched quarterback that, if he could just get his one true shot, could be the greatest football player…of all time!!!

As we follow him through his piss-poor jobs, such as a lowly grocery store employee that has to live on welfare while dating single mom and ex-Marine Brenda (the very lovely Anna Paquin), he is eventually recruited by an arena league football team in Iowa, coached by the lovably gruff Bruce McGill.

Receiving $100 for every touchdown he makes—or helps make, I’m not sure—Brenda is about to break up with him when her parents die in a tornado. Thankfully, that tragedy inspires them to get married and, in probably the most tear-jerking scene of the whole movie, her special needs son sings a country song to Kurt at their wedding.

Just thinking about it now is causing my eyes to well with wholly masculine feelings.

If you've watched 15 minutes of football in your life, which is 15 minutes more than me, you know that Kurt eventually gets signed to the St. Louis Rams and the rest is history. And while I didn’t know anything about him—to be honest, this was the first time I’ve even heard of Kurt Warner—it’s the story of his family life and how he balanced his sportsmanlike conduct and eventual Christian faith with it that I was truly most thankful for.

Even though I had previously “worked” for them as an extra in I Can Only Imagine, the film is directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, using about as much filmic finesse as the overnight guy dubbing ESPN tapes to a digital format. Thankfully, the material is really lifted to watchable heights by the assorted actors, including Levi, Paquin and Erwin-regular Denis Quaid, as the remarkably gentle Dick Vermeil, the head coach of the Rams.

Bonus points for Oklahoma, for once, finally being used as a stand-in for another state. In American Underdog, various Iowa locales are filmed here in Oklahoma City, particularly Jim Norick Arena. And while that’s great, I truly long for the day where Oklahoma takes the cinematic place of Canada itself—I know you can make it happen Erwins!

While I might not become a fan of Kurt Warner (or football, for that matter) anytime soon, I can admit that I’m definitely a fan of the theatrical presentation of his life and, I think, I just might be a fan of the Erwins too. What the Hell is happening to me?

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Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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