Why did Underdogs go straight to DVD? This is a fun family film, and to my knowledge is the first soccer movie that is an animated full-length feature film. I saw the trailer at the theater and ever since, I had been keeping an eye out for its release.
It surprised me then to be browsing through Netflix and finding the film there. A little googling, and I find that after a lot of fanfare in 2015, the Weinstein Company ended up taking it straight to streaming & DVD in Jun-2016.
In fact, it seems that the Weinsteins tried to hide any evidence of their association, because Underdogs was not even on their website. Their twitter name @Underdogs_Film has not tweeted since Jun-2015. I searched for a clue as to what went wrong, but found nothing. Maybe one of you can feed me the facts!
[Edit Sep-24-2018: As you probably know, the Weinstein Company went out of business after the #MeToo movement. So their website no longer exists.]
Anyhow, back to the movie. Underdogs is a USA-dubbed version of Metegol, which was released in 2013. Directed by Juan José Campanella (“The Secret in Their Eyes”), Metegol is one of the highest-grossing Argentinean films ever made. A UK version entitled The Unbeatables was subsequently released, but the Weinsteins elected in 2014 to re-dub it with American stars for the USA.
In the story, Jake is a geeky shy young waiter in a small town cafe, but he’s exceptionally good at foosball (table soccer). He beats Ace, the town bully, who returns years later as a soccer superstar who strongly resembles Zlatan Ibrahimović and plays like Cristiano Ronaldo.
To erase the scene of his only defeat in life, Ace (Brooklyn Beckham) plans to build a super stadium, tear down the town, and sweep Jake’s best friend Lara off her feet. Oh, and take the foosball players and meld their “DNA” into a new line of soccer cleats.
Jake challenges Ace to another foosball match to preserve the town, but Ace destroys the table and says the match must be a real soccer game in the new stadium (which he builds in a few days). So Jake recruits a pitiful team from the town’s citizens, and the foosball figures magically come to life to help him out.
Themes and animation
Underdogs has multiple themes of family, overcoming adversity, standing up to bullying, etc. It even opens with a depiction of apes and the dawn of soccer, mimicking 2001: A Space Odyssey. You can see a few seconds of this clever animation in the UK trailer below. I found the film so entertaining, it didn’t matter that some of it didn’t make absolute sense. And I marveled at how well the characters look like they really play soccer. Even though the figures all have the same body and face, they express different and humorous international personalities.
Going into this film, Campanella had neither animation experience nor soccer knowledge. The foosball idea was brought to him by Gaston Gorali in 2008, and starting in 2011, animator Sergio Pablos (Despicable Me) taught Campanella the ropes of running an animation production. That studio is now producing an animated Underdogs series for TV. The hope was always to establish a Toy Story-like franchise.
8 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 8
- Released: 2013-07-18 (Argentina), 2016-06 (USA DVD)
- Titles are Underdogs (USA), The Unbeatables (UK), and Metegol (Argentina)
- Director: Juan José Campanella
- Stars: Brooklyn Beckham (son of David and Victoria) provides the voice of the young Ace. Mel Brooks is the US narrator
- – 2013 original Argentinian trailer
- – UK Unbeatables trailer
- – Official trailer in US theaters
- Website for the 2013 original Argentinian film.
- Best comparison of the 3 versions