One of the toughest genres to make a quality film in is the faith-based film. It is very difficult to portray conversion and a spiritual life in a way that doesn’t feel forced and cloying. However, the Erwin Bros, Andrew and Jon, are doing it about as well as can be done. I first noticed them in 2018 with I Can Only Imagine, which made a non-religious friend of mine weep, it was so good. And then I Still Believe released just before the pandemic that was another solid inspirational true story about musician Jeremy Camp. Now with their latest film American Underdog they are moving to sports to tell the story of come-from-behind football star Kurt Warner and they have another win!
There are a couple key aspects that make American Underdog work. First, the story is compelling and doesn’t try to start a ministry. What Kurt Warner accomplished coming from an undrafted status to winning Super Bowls as a quarterback is remarkable. He literally did go from stocking shelves at the supermarket to an MVP in the NFL. That kind of story doesn’t happen every day and is exciting.
Second, the Erwin’s got quality actors for the film. We all know Zachary Levi is charismatic and likable but so is Anna Paquin who plays Warner’s girlfriend/wife. Dennis Quaid does strong work as coach Dick Vermeil in a small role and little Hayden Zaller is wonderful as Warner’s step-son Zack. The whole cast makes for a story that’s easy to find inspiring because we like the characters and we want to cheer for them.
Finally, for this kind of movie the script is relatively gritty and honest. For example, Kurt and Brenda live together for a long time before getting married. They also meet in a bar and characters get intoxicated on occasion. It’s not like you need these elements to make a story work but it’s also nice the filmmakers didn’t shy away from them to appease their Christian audience either. It makes the victory in the end all the more enjoyable when you see where they come from and what they have overcome.
This holiday season if you are looking for something that will make you stand up and cheer check out American Underdog. It’s a rousing crowd pleaser for the whole family!
7 out of 10