“Destiny belongs to the underdogs,” a quote from the newest film “American Underdog” directed by the duo Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin and starring Zackary Levi (“Shazam”) and Anna Paquin as Kurt Warner and Brenda Meoni. It’s a Cinderella story of a man with a dream of being the next Joe Montana who loses his way only to find his way back through the love of Brenda and the coaches who see how special he is. The true life story of this MVP Hall of Fame winning quarterback is uplifting and inspiring even with its rather contrived musical score.
Warner’s story is a familiar one, but this one accentuates on man’s vulnerable psyche and how others play a vital role in his resiliency and success. It’s a lesson for us all as we attempt to accomplish our own dreams and goals and have the opportunity to help others do the same.
Warner’s rags to riches story takes us back in time to Warner’s college days where he shined. The stars of fate weren’t yet aligned and he found himself hopping from job to job, near poverty level. Meeting the woman who would later become his wife, Brenda, and her two children one of whom is blind, Warner finds new inspiration in life and living. With Brenda’s faith, the two still struggle, but they do it together.
We watch as his dreams are shattered year after year, stocking shelves on the graveyard shift at a grocery store to help makes ends meet, but as luck would have it, he gets an opportunity to Arena Football coached by Jim Foster (Bruce McGill). Thinking this may open doors, and they do, many are still slammed shut for this man some of which he helps close due to his lack of self confidence. It isn’t until Warner finds his way to the St. Louis Rams, coached by Dick Vermeil (Dennis Quaid) and Coach Mike Martz (Chance Kelly), that Warner is allowed to become the shining star he was destined to be.
The story, as many of you know, has a brilliant ending, and as newscasters and coaches actually said, “A better script couldn’t have been written,” screenwriters took this story and transformed it into a heartfelt drama filled with love and a message.
Casting actors who appear to be doppelgängers of the real life characters (be sure to stay all the way through the credits to see actual footage and photos), Levi easily embodies the star football player with a heart. His easy-going demeanor and ability to allow us into his mind and feel his emotions is exactly what this role requires. Levi is immediately likable and we are connected, the very essence of what the film relies upon to carry it. Paquin’s spunk and spark ignite the story as her character creates the stress and tension of real life. Protecting her children (and herself from more heartache) we feel this push and pull between the two making it believable.
“American Underdog” reminds us of the importance of believing in yourself, finding the courage to do so and those who lift us when we cannot walk alone. Warner’s story is an inspiring one as he defies the odds, going from a grocery stock “boy” to 5 years later, winning the Super Bowl as an undrafted player and achieving more accolades than imaginable.