In the midst of one of the most exciting NFL Playoffs in recent memory, punctuated by some of the greatest QB performances of all-time (by the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Matthew Stafford and others), the Kurt Warner life-story film ‘American Underdog’ has quietly scraped and clawed its way to a top 10 position at the American box office.
Warner, perhaps the most unlikely NFL MVP in history, is played by ‘Chuck’ TV series title star Zachary Levy in the film, while his wife Brenda Meoni is played by former ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ star Anna Paquin, who played Rogue in that film.
The movie follows Warner’s tumultuous journey from college star at Northern Iowa University to failed NFL walk-on with the Green Bay Packers to his Arena Football League Days, and finally the coup de grace of his football career: a Super Bowl victory with Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz’s St. Louis Rams.
After watching the film this weekend, I wholeheartedly recommend any serious football fan check it out.
‘American Underdog’ is a well-made, inspiring film along the same lines as ‘Remember the Titans,’ with an enjoyable and riveting tale of the Warners’ family life off the field included.
If you have even cursory knowledge of Vermeil’s ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ or Warner’s career, you owe it to yourself to go watch this movie.
Here are five reasons why:
1. Levy’s Performance- Warner, the former grocery store shelf stocker, has a style and personality all his own, but Levy clearly did his homework for this role because he absolutely nailed it.
Oftentimes I did a double take wondering whether it was really Kurt on screen or a Hollywood actor.
2. The Message- After watching Warner struggle throughout the movie, and overcome every obstacle in his way, I could see exactly why and how he became the success that he had despite his underdog status as a former Arena League and Division I-AA quarterback.
Warner gets cut by the Packers for asking a simple question, faces constant doubts from NFL scouts and even his own coaches (including salty Rams Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, played masterfully by Chance Kelly), and overcomes he and his girlfriend/wife Brenda’s bouts of poverty through pure grit, faith and determination.
I will never look at Kurt Warner the same again after watching this movie. It’s one of the most uplifting sports films I’ve seen in years.
3. The Action Scenes- From Warner’s baptism by fire as a prospect with the NIU Panthers learning how to take big hits in the pocket to his NFL debut against a fire-breathing Ray Lewis doppelganger with the Ravens, the movie’s action scenes never fail to disappoint and are as authentic to real life NFL action as any I’ve seen.
4. The Family Story Arc- The true story of Warner’s courtship of wife Brenda made me view this First Family of Football in an entirely different light.
The struggles they face, from running out of gas in an Iowa snowstorm to Kurt caring for Brenda’s blind son Zack had me rooting for the Warners to succeed from the opening scenes.
5. The Precedent- To me, this movie is a trend-setter, a template for how great future NFL or other athletes’ biopics can be in the near future.
‘American Underdog’ seamlessly blends an uplifting, football, family-and-faith above all ‘Remember the Titans’ type of feel with the excitement of reliving unforgettable real-world sports memories, and discovering the personalities and stories behind the major players involved.
If you’re looking for a change-of-pace from gory slasher films (Scream 5, I’m looking at you) or Superhero movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home, ‘American Underdog’ is your movie.
And if you’re not a Kurt Warner fan, this movie just might change that.
Final Verdict: Four-and-a-half-stars out of five, if only because I would have liked to have seen more of Warner’s Super Bowl run at the conclusion of this film instead of a movie-ending montage following his first NFL career win against the Ravens.
Thanks for reading! P.S. Learn more about Kurt and Brenda’s charity ‘Treasure House,’ a place for people with physical disabilities, by clicking on this article.