One of Hollywood’s overused money-making movie plots is the underdog plot. We have a guy, who in one way or another has some problem going on with his life. Then, he is thrown into a team of players who are really bad, so bad that they are usually just scoffed as a loser team. Then, with that guy’s help (somehow), the team transforms into a fighting machine and at the same time, resolves the guy’s personal problem. We all know how the story ends: they win, they prove themselves and that’s that (or they lose yet they still proved themselves). Usually, underdog plots go to the world of basketball (see Coach Carter and The Winning Season, two underrated films), with the occasional glance at football (Little Giants). But for the sake of argument, I’m taking a look at two underdog films with a comedic touch: Rebound and Kicking and Screaming. Two different sports, same plot.
Category: The Coaches
Contenders: Martin Lawrence and Will Ferrell
Commentary: Martin Lawrence plays an infamous college basketball coach who’s known for his temper. He gets thrown out of the team and must find another position to prove that he can control himself and be back in the college game. He was offered the position to coach the Smelters, a team of rather diverse players with their own personalities. Will Ferrell, however, is not a coach to begin with. He decided to coach his son’s team when the original coach quit. That, and to prove his father that he can make a great team. He too was stuck in a diverse pool of players, including his son.
Winner: Martin Lawrence. The probability of his team winning was more realistic that Ferrell’s because he is a coach. Ferrell had an assistant coach, plus he took the Italians (and their natural talent for soccer--for the sake of argument, we’re calling it soccer as to not confuse it with football). Yeah, Ferrell didn’t really do any coaching, he was more of a physical being to the name.
Category: The Team
Contenders: The Smelters and The Tigers
Commentary: We meet the Smelters as an underdog basketball team. Almost each member has a definitive personality pinned on them, so it’s easy to identify with them. The Tigers, on the other hand, seem to be just a bunch of kids thrown in together to make the team. None of the players stand out, even Ferrell’s own kid.
Winner: The Smelters. How can an underdog soccer team really win if their coach did not teach them anything. Think about it, the Italian kids were the ones doing the coaching; they won by the tricks the kids taught them.
Category: The Eye of the Tiger
Commentary: This song was used in both films. In Rebound, the song was used as an overlay to the team walking down the hall looking all swagger because who wouldn't They won state championship! In Kicking and Screaming, the song was used to indicate the ascend of Will Ferrell as a lean mean fighting machine.
Winner: Rebound. Despite the song being more fitting for the Tigers (eye of the Tiger?)
Category: Comedic Probability, Coach Division
Contenders: Martin Lawrence and Will Ferrell
Commentary: When you have comedians as front liners of films like these, you would expect it to have ‘tons’ of laughs. While Martin Lawrence was able to bring some serious coaching and a few laughs, Will Ferrell’s antics was able to amp the comedy side of his underdog film.
Winner: Will Ferrell.
Category: Comedic Probability, Team Division
Contender: The Smelters and The Tigers
Commentary: Just because the Smelters appear to be the better team doesn't mean they can’t contribute to the comedic factor of the film. Despite their obvious differences of personalities, with some of them having a story of their own apart from the team, The Smelters players fade away when it comes on making an impact on the screen. The Tigers, however, were able to somewhat make up for their dullness. That scene where they all stepped out of the butcher truck looking ravished in blood? Impact. Kudos to Steven Anthony Lawrence, he was in both films and had his moment in both of them (although both may be a bad move to his career).
Winner: The Tigers.
Overall Winner: I want to say Rebound, because it does have more of a spirit of being the underdog. However, the performance in Kicking and Screaming were more stand out compared to this. Then again, Rebound was a movie that was clearly not only about Martin Lawrence, but the importance of the game to the team. Kicking and Screaming really was just all about Will Ferrell. Both films didn't fare well. However, if you're in the mood for an underdog film, I suggest Coach Carter (for some inspirational bits), The Winning Season (for Sam Rockwell) and Little Giants.