Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Underdog

Posted By on Wed, Aug 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM

In general, there's pretty much only one place for real dogs and computer-animation to mingle on screen, and that's in Snoop's 1993 "What's My Name?" video.

And that was probably a stretch.

Otherwise, no one wants to see man's best friend talk, let alone be anthropomorphized in any other manner. Or any other animal for that matter. I'm still in therapy for having watched the Garfield movie.

So it came as a shock that Disney's Underdog movie didn't completely blow puppy-food chunks.

Jason Lee, who has gotten plenty of voiceover practice on TV's My Name is Earl, narrates and speaks for the title character, a beagle that gets CGI-supplied superpowers.

Yes, it's another live-action version of an old cartoon. Maybe the likes of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Scooby-Doo didn't fare well with the big screen treatment, but the scribes were barking up the right tree when they chose to redo Underdog. The show can certainly stand it.

Now, there'll be a few of you who'll disagree. But, look, do you really remember the original Underdog? Maybe what's fueling such nostalgia is a longing for the days of breakfast cereal and cartoon viewing? Check out episodes on YouTube; it's obvious that animated television has come a long, long way.

The new version, however, fearlessly flies into modern times. Our heroic beagle gets his powers after a mad scientist's DNA experiment goes wrong. He can fly, digs faster than your average backhoe, has super hearing and can speak English. His animated antics are a hoot — admittedly even the talking part thanks to Lee's trademark truck-stop charm and slacker sarcasm.

The villains are probably the highlight, with Peter Dinklage of The Station Agent playing a perfectly menacing Dr. Simon Barsinister. His tirades are deliciously creepy. And Patrick Warburton proves his evil sidekick mettle as Cad. His bleached-blond, immaculately sculpted hairdo is practically worth the price of admission.

This is by no means Grade A Disney. Frankly, the script could have used a few more gags and bit less sentimentality.

If every dog has its day, however, Underdog certainly finds his bark in this update.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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