“The Underdoggs” comes with a mischievous warning that there will be ample profanity uttered in front of and by young children, which, like everything else in this direct-to-Amazon comedy, serves as part of its crude charm while becoming a tad repetitive. Mostly, this variant of “The Bad News Bears” creates a lightweight vehicle for star-producer Snoop Dogg and benefits from not taking itself – or anything, really – too seriously.
Snoop plays Jaycen “Two Js” Jennings, a former professional football player who still enjoys a lavish lifestyle despite the fact nobody wants to work with him. A walking case of bad attitude, his existence consists of getting stoned and eating Wheaties, though his days as cereal-box material have long since passed.
After a car accident leads to court-ordered community service, Jaycen stumbles into coaching a hapless youth football team, mostly because his old high-school flame (Tika Sumpter, and no, that math doesn’t really work) is the conveniently single mother of one of the kids. Blasts from the past also include a former classmate (Mike Epps) who initially tries to carjack him, and his one-time coach (George Lopez), who, to Jaycen’s ears, seems to be inadvertently dispensing Yoda-like advice.
Directed by Charles Stone III (who oversaw another movie about a past-his-prime athlete with “Mr. 3000”), “Underdoggs” has a loose, natural quality that doesn’t require Snoop to do much more than be Snoop – handing him the ball and letting him run with it, surrounded by a customarily eccentric group of kids.
The story, similarly, doesn’t get overly preoccupied with plot while following a basic sports-movie formula as it builds toward a big-game showdown, although there are some amusing asides and cameos sprinkled along the way, such as an appearance by the Fox Sports NFL crew.
As the closing crawl notes, Snoop has made youth football one of his ways of giving back to the community – including a recent partnership with the NFL’s San Diego Chargers – so “The Underdoggs” amounts to killing a couple birds with one stone.
Snoop has a way of popping up in unexpected places, like his upcoming role with NBC’s Olympic coverage. While enjoying something like “The Underdoggs” requires a certain mindset (or maybe a slightly altered one), it’s another example that there’s still a place for broad comedies, even when they operate from the most familiar of playbooks.
“The Underdoggs” premieres January 26 on Amazon’s Prime Video. It’s rated R.
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