Australian Council on Children and the Media

Underdog

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Short takes

Not recommended under 5, PG to 10 (Violence, themes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Underdog
  • a review of Underdog completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 27 September 2007.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 5 Not recommended due to disturbing scenes and violence.
Children aged 5-10 Parental guidance due to themes and violence
Children over 10 OK without parental guidance

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Underdog
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and violence
Length 81 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Underdog follows the exciting exploits of a failed Beagle sniffer-dog who develops supernatural abilities after accidental exposure to a mad scientist’s experimental DNA formula.
Self-proclaimed ‘visionary’ Dr. Simon Barsinister (Peter Dinklage) and his assistant Cad (Patrick Warburton) capture Underdog (voice of Jason Lee) for use in their animal experimentation program that aims to develop an army of super-powered animals.  While trying to escape the mad doctor’s laboratory, Underdog is doused in the experimental serum, which gives him incredible powers of speed and strength in addition to the ability to fly and speak English.
Underdog is then adopted by security guard Dan Unger (James Belushi), who takes the Beagle home as a pet for his teenage son Jack (Alex Neuberger).  Jack initially resents the dog (whom they name ‘Shoeshine’), seeing it as a token gift from a father who is almost never home.  However, soon the two make friends and Jack discovers the beagle’s amazing abilities which he decides to keep a secret.  Jack encourages the super-dog to use his extraordinary gifts to help others and ‘Shoeshine’ becomes a super-hero who carries out a series of amazing rescues. 
Meanwhile, Dr. Barsinister plots to capture Underdog to retrieve the experimental DNA he needs to take over the country.  Eventually there is a final showdown between Underdog and the mad doctor, his assistant Cad and the doctor’s three trained German Shepherd dogs.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Kidnapping of animals; Experimentation on animals; Bullying

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Repeated verbal harassment of Shoeshine/Underdog by a gang of three stray dogs
  • Verbal harassment of Dan Unger by the chief of police
  • During a mugging, thieves scruff Molly (Jack’s girlfriend) by her shirt
  • After a failed kidnapping attempt by Dr. Barsinister’s assistant, Underdog drags Cad over several city blocks, during which Cad smacks into a fire hydrant, a street sign and assorted city refuse
  • Dr. Barsinister uses his three aggressive German Shepherd dogs to threaten the mayor, Dan Unger and Underdog
  • Underdog knocks Dr. Barsinister over with a large marble dome
  • Dr. Barsinister chases Underdog with a large sword
  • Dr. Barsinister throws a large shield at Underdog
  • Underdog knocks Cad down several steps
  • The three aggressive German Shepherd dogs turn on their master, Dr. Barsinister and surround him menacingly

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • In one scene, Dr. Barsinister injects himself with the DNA formula and then becomes super-human
  • Several scenes show close-ups of the mad scientist’s sinister facial expressions
  • Several close-ups of aggressive, snarling German Shepherds.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • references to animal experimentation in Dr. Barsinister’s laboratory
  • Underdog is accidentally run-over by Jack’s father, Dan Unger
  • Dan is kidnapped by Dr. Barsinister
  • Underdog surrenders himself to Dr. Barsinister to prevent either Jack or his father being hurt by the mad scientist
  • After saving the city from Dr. Barsinister’s bomb, Underdog is blasted into outer-space and it seems as though he has died

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the above-mentioned scenes, particularly references to experiments on animals and the scene where it is thought that Underdog is dead.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

Underdog is a fast-paced family comedy drama pitched at children under 15 which will also be enjoyable to older audiences who will appreciate several clever references to the Superman film series.
The main message from this movie is that we are all “born for greatness” and will uncover a wealth of wonderful things inside ourselves if we don’t give up.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Faithfulness;
  • Persistence;
  • Courage; and
  • Empathy.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • The seriousness of bullying, verbal and physical harassment;
  • The inappropriateness of using violence to solve problems; and
  • Our responsibility to care for animals.

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