Thursday, March 23, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks - The Underdog

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun and games by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and telling everyone a bit about them!

"There's no need to fear, UNDERDOG is here!"

Yes, it's everyone's favorite canine cartoon superhero, here for your entertainment this week on Thursday Movie Picks. I remember being a young child madly in love with cartoons (weren't we all?) and loving the little overserious mutt with his uniform and cape. Oh the many hours I would spend just waiting for the next epi...

...I'm sorry, what?

...oh, NOT that underdog?

...really?

...

WELL THEN!

Apparently, we are talking about the "accomplish goal with impossible odds" kind of underdog. Which I suppose makes more sense. Lord knows we Americans love a good underdog story, so there are loads to choose from. Here are a few of my favorites.

The Mighty Ducks (Stephen Herick, 1992) The power of nostalgia is STRONG with this one. It plays straight from the Bad News Bears playbook: Loutish, formerly great sportsman is forced to coach team of the worst kids at his preferred sport, teaches them how to believe in themselves and win the big game, too. It is pure formula all the way down the line, and I ATE IT UP when I was a kid. I still do now, actually, and I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit it. It comes down to the casting, which is perfect all the way down the line. The kids have such a great natural rapport with each other that it's easy to overlook their at times not-so-great acting skills, and Emilio Estevez  proves to be a perfect adult lead for this. There's a reason why this got two sequels AND an actual hockey team that took its name.

Cool Runnings (Jon Turteltaub, 1993) Yes, it's another Disney about a winter sport from the '90s, but what can I say? You can't get much more of an underdog than 1988 Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. I've since learned that practically nothing happened in real life the way it did in the film, and they certainly could have stayed more true to life and still had a compelling narrative, but when the performances are this good (especially John Candy, in the last performance he was alive to see completed) and the film is overall as fleet and filled with good feeling as this, what does it matter? My sister and I still quote this movie to each other TO THIS DAY.

Slumdog Millionaire (Danny Boyle, 2008) A case where a movie about an underdog became an unlikely underdog itself, narrowly escaping a direct-to-DVD release to win every award in sight, including the Oscar for Best Picture. Boyle's kaleidoscopic film about a poor young Indian man who against the odds makes it on the Indian version of the TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and realizes that the experiences in his life have given him all the answers he needs to win and lift himself up out of poverty may be too full of contrivances and conveniences for some, but I was totally engrossed in it from the start, and right alongside the characters emotionally until the euphoric ending.

23 comments:

  1. I have seen Slumdog which is great. I love the whole film from the moment he ends up literally in shit to his triumph and sings with everyone else...makes me want to sing.....no, that would not be good. I still have to see Mighty Ducks which is the hockey version, I believe, with my pick, The Bad News Bears. I also have to see Cool Runnings with the great John Candy.

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    1. I mostly don't get the hate of Slumdog Millionaire. Sure, it's a bit contrived, but when it's so wonderfully executed, what does that matter? That movie worked on me like a charm!

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  2. I love all three of your picks and I'm seriously kicking myself for not thinking of The Mighty Ducks.

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    1. OMG how could you NOT?!? All three Mighty Ducks are such touchstones for '90s kids!

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  3. I watched The Mighty Ducks all the time when I was a child, loved it! Haven't seen your other picks.

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    1. Mighty Ducks was a BIG favorite at my house growing up. The sequels, too. Or, at least the first sequel.

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  4. I always loved all the incarnations of The Mighty Duck. Always made me regret there's no hockey spot in my place. Slumdog Millionaire is great! I love the acting and directing!

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    1. lol yeah I totally would have joined a hockey team after seeing Mighty Ducks but I am TERRIBLE on skates!

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  5. Cool Runnings is so funny. I'm also a fan of Slumdog. Very nice choices. Believe it or not, I haven't seen The Mighty Ducks, yet.

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    1. I cannot see Mighty Ducks with fresh eyes, so I cannot even tell you if it holds up as an adult.

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  6. I know I've said again and again that I'm not an animation fan and that still holds true but I did love Underdog when I was a kid, in particular I adored his faithful girlfriend Sweet Polly Purebread!, so loving the intro.

    I saw Mighty Ducks in the theatre with my very young at the time nephew and he loved it so much I ended up buying the video and I can't even guess how many times we watched it together.

    I liked Cool Runnings but only watched it the once. However I just don't see where all the shouting about Slumdog Millionaire comes from, I couldn't get into it.

    Your right we Americans love our underdog films. I'll always give a film a try if I see that in the description so rather than agonizing over it I picked three of my favorites.

    Little Miss Sunshine (2006)-Young Olive (Abigail Breslin) has a dream shared by her grandfather (Alan Arkin). She wants to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine contest but that requires a road trip with her dysfunctional family, inventor dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), willfully mute brother Dwayne (Paul Dano), suicidal Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) and flustered mom Sheryl (Toni Collette). At first it looks doubtful but then they all pile into the van and go on a bumpy road to give Olive her chance despite the odds. Just quirky enough to be charming without wearing out its welcome thanks to a great cast all doing terrific work. Arkin won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

    Miracle (2004)-The true story of Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) the hockey coach who took the rough material that was the US hockey team and whipped them into Olympic gold medal winning shape. Wonderfully detailed with athletes rather than actors as the team mates, though they perform their lines well, and a powerfully convincing lead performance from Russell, one of his best. Despite the known outcome the film is quite involving and the end exciting.

    October Sky (1999)-Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) is just another backwoods teen in a slowly dying coal town in the 50’s until he witnesses Sputnik flying by one night. Filled with the wonder of space and encouraged by his young teacher Miss Riley (Laura Dern) he convinces his friends O’Dell & Roy Lee to work with him to try and build rockets. Enlisting the school outcast and brain Quentin they plunge in against many obstacles, including the stubborn resistance of Homer’s good but pigheaded father (Chris Cooper). Meeting with some success they determine to enter the national science competition in pursuit of college scholarships. A great film with tremendous performances full of determination to succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds and all around American can-doism with one of the most beautifully evocative and fitting scores ever.

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    1. I ALMOST picked Little Miss Sunshine for this! Abigail Breslin is so perfect as Olive. The whole cast really is great, although I'm not sure Arkin needed an Oscar for it.

      Haven't seen Miracle or October Sky, but I've always heard good things about the former and you keep touting the merits of the latter, so I'll have to check them out eventually.

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  7. I've only seen Slumdog Millionaire and it was great!

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  8. I only saw Slumdog and must admit I wasn't a big fan of that but it's great how much Patel has grown as an actor since then

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    1. See, I knew him from Skins before that, so I was impressed with how good he was in Slumdog - SUCH a different character!

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for commenting!

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  10. Slumdog was a sensation! I watched it years after the hype. Its good but I couldn't help but think was is 'that' good.

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    1. lol I get that. It worked like a charm for me when I saw it, though. Loved every second. Haven't seen it since, though. I need to rewatch it.

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  11. Cool Runnings is a pick I completely forgot for my own post but I'm glad it has been picked a couple of times this week! Great choices!

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    1. I know! I was SO happy to see all the Cool Runnings love!

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  12. Haha. Cool Runnings is endless quoteable.

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    1. "Whatchu smokin'?"
      "I'm not smokin', man, I'm breathin'!"

      ...is probably my favorite.

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