I’ll assume that all parents who take their wards to a film aimed at an 8-and-under demographic can ask for is that it be a relatively painless experience. Underdog at least meets this expectation without really showing the ambition to deliver anything more. It’s a kid’s film, and pretty much that’s all that it is.
Purists of the old cartoon show might be upset to find that a real beagle with CGI moving lips now plays Shoeshine Boy/Underdog, but, then, this wasn’t made for them. Here we have just plain Shoeshine (voiced by Jason “I lost a bet” Lee), a disgraced police K-9 that falls into the diabolical hands of Dr. Simon Barsinister (played with unexpected nuance by Peter Dinklage of The Station Agent), who during the course of a mad experiment accidentally creates his new nemesis, Underdog.
When the lab explodes and maims the dastardly doctor, the critter escapes and takes refuge in the homestead of a former cop (a vaguely narcoleptic Jim Belushi, apparently paying for a new speedboat or something) and a mopey emo-lite teenaged boy. Of course, the kid and his dad aren’t communicating, and since this is a Disney film, the mother is pushing up daisies. Finding that his new pet is capable of talking to him, not to mention all other manner of superhero tricks, the boy and his dog set about cleaning up the city … and wooing the local bubble-headed blonde and her pet, Polly Purebred (disturbingly, the cocker spaniel looks like a miniaturized Susan Sarandon, unshaven and on all fours).
But Barsinister and his lunkheaded henchman have concocted an evil scheme …
Yeah, it’s not much, but it is what it is. The 8-and-unders will have fun with it and might even be inspired to throw the family beagle off of the roof to see if it can fly. They’re so cute when they’re at that impressionable age.