A True Underdog Story



Lionsgate came out with a new sports film called “American Underdog,” which has been trending in the talk of football.

Ryan W., Writer

Lionsgate’s American Underdog, has been trending in U.S. movie theaters for several weeks. Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, the film premiered in theaters on December 25. While the movie has grossed a modest $24.7 million dollars, it has been a trendy topic for many football fans on social media due to its faith-inspired story and the incredible accomplishments of its central character, NFL Hall of Famer, Kurt Warner. 

Based on a true story, the film follows the journey of quarterback Kurt Warner, played by Zachary Levi, as he finds himself sitting on the bench at the University of Northern Iowa. Through more than three years at the school, he remained a backup. Yet with hardwork and determination, he finally earned the right to play the final ten games of the season. In the ten games Warner started, he led his team to several victories which drew the attention of a few NFL scouts. A few months later, the NFL draft occurred, yet Warner was not selected. While most players might have been tempted to call it quits, he refused to accept this outcome. During 1994, he spent months working at a grocery store while continuing to work out and throw the football in case his number was called.

The director of American Underdog takes a decidedly more personal approach to the story, making the film more about the humanity of Kurt Warner rather than the star athlete he became. At the core of the story is his romance with a single-mom named Brenda, whom he met at a country bar (played by Anna Paquin.) Brenda’s husband left her just months after she became pregnant with her son Zack (played by Hayden Zaller.) Warner began to date Brenda, and in short order realized her son was blind. Yet he was undeterred by the prospect of fathering a child with special needs, and he began to form a tight relationship with Brenda and her children.

Meanwhile, the owner of a new Arena Football League franchise contacted Warner, offering him a chance to play quarterback and make a little money. He accepted a spot with the Iowa Barnstormers and slowly began his ascent toward the NFL. At this point in the story, Warner’s faith in God and belief in a higher calling come to the forefront. Warner believed he was destined for something greater, which motivated him to continue chasing his dream of playing in the NFL. After an incredible season in the Arena Football League, he was finally given a chance to play for the St. Louis Rams. During training camp, he proved himself a valuable asset to the team, and after their starting quarterback suffered a severe injury, Warner stepped in. From this point forward, he led one of the most dominant offenses to ever play the sport of football, which concluded with his commemoration in the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017

The film touches on several important themes, one of which is overcoming adversity. Zachary Levi did an admirable job depicting Kurt Warner – not just a nice guy, but a nice guy who overcame many struggles to achieve his dream. Levi’s acting is convincing as a father-figure and as a romantic interest for Brenda. Levi and Paquin have good on-screen chemistry and do a strong job playing characters that are almost too good to be true.

A few other memorable acting performances include Bruce McGill as the football coach for Kurt Warner’s Arena Football team, Dennis Quaid as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, and Chance Kelly as the offensive coordinator of the Rams. 

Another strong element of the film is Warner’s unwavering faith. Hollywood films often shy away from direct associations with Christianity. However, American Underdog directly examines the relationship between his success and his belief in God. 

When tragedy struck Brenda’s family, Warner’s strength and nobility carried her through one of the most difficult circumstances of her life. The director succeeds in tying each sub-theme together, showing Warner’s deep conviction as a man, and how he truly was an underdog.

American Underdog provides a strong telling of overcoming adversity, filling the viewer with appreciation towards Warner’s Super Bowl journey while reflecting upon bigger questions regarding faith and family.