Review: ‘American Underdog’ is a hit with critics and audiences – Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER – Everyone loves an underdog.

Kurt Warner was about as long as they come. But the young boy from Burlington, Iowa who dreamed of becoming a Super Bowl winner beat those odds and his dream came true.

I was destined for something…something more.

—Kurt Warner

“American Underdog” is a new version performed at Baxter’s Lakes 12 Theater about the life and times of Warner, a small college star who rose from near-obscurity to NFL superstar.

Based on his 2009 autobiography “All Things Possible,” the feature film adaptation of his inspirational true story of how the quarterback won Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000.

Warner of the St. Louis Rams faced the Tennessee Titans at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and won the game 23-16 and captured his first and only NFL championship.

In the film, the Green Bay Packers arrange for the University of Northern Iowa fifth-year senior to try out for the National Football Conference team, but he hesitates on the sidelines when he is called upon to play.

“We gave you the chance, we let you go,” a Green Bay Packers assistant coach told a crestfallen Warner, who is played by Zachary Levi.

A former football manager played by Adam Baldwin earlier told Warner: “You gotta start thinking about life outside of football, son.”

Levi starred in the NBC action comedy “Chuck” from 2007 to 2012 as a computer geek who accidentally becomes a national security risk watched by an NSA agent played by Baldwin.

Warner reluctantly goes to a nearby bar with his college roommate when single mother of two Brenda Meoni catches the quarterback’s eye on the dance floor in 1993.

Warner is instantly smitten with the spunky former Marine played by Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin, who initially rebuffed his advances and remains guarded for the sake of her two young children.

Meoni studies to be a nurse while trying to support her children on food stamps and realizes – despite the mutual attraction – that Warner may be in over her head in the relationship.

“I was meant for something…something more,” Warner says, however, at one point in the film as he stubbornly pursues Meoni in his attempt to win her over.

Frank Lee

They become romantically involved and he becomes a father figure to Meoni’s daughter and son; the latter is visually impaired due to an accident caused by his biological father.

As dreams of playing in the NFL quickly fade with a de facto family now to support, Warner reluctantly accepts a job stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store.

But Jim Foster, founder and first commissioner of the Arena Football League, comes to ask Warner to play for his AFL team, the Iowa Barnstormers, a better paid job which Warner accepts.

Warner leads the team to the championships but loses. However, he is visited by a St. Louis Rams scout.

Dick Vermeil, played by Dennis Quaid, is the Rams head coach at the time and sees something in the 28-year-old Warner who is old by professional athlete standards.

“You’re too old to be a rookie, too green to be a pro, so why the hell would I give you that chance?” St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz bluntly asks Warner.

Warner says, “I wasn’t ready for that. … But I am now.

“American Underdog” currently holds a 76% approval rating among critics and an impressive 98% approval rating among audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, a film and television review aggregation website.

The critics’ consensus reads, “‘American Underdog’ sticks to the standard playbook of inspirational sports drama – and proves once again that it can be very effective in the right hands. “

FRANK LEE can be reached at 218-855-5863 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at


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