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Stars: Jim Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Peter Dinklage, Alex Neuberger, Taylor Momsen, John Slattery, Timothy Crowe, Leo the Lemon Beagle as Shoeshine/Underdog (voice: Jason Lee), Ginger the King Charles Spaniel as Polly Purebreed (voice: Amy Adams), Bronco the Rottweiler as Riff Raff (voice: Brad Garrett)

Director: Frederick Du Chau

“Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a frog!” Oh, no it isn’t! It’s the high flying beagle crime-fighting hero Underdog in Disney’s live-action fantasy-comedy which brings the popular America 1964-1973 cartoon television series to the big screen.

As a result of mad scientist Dinklage’s evil experiment, the mild mutt finds himself endowed with superhero powers, including the power of flight and the ability to speak human. Supplied with a suitable costume by his new young owner Neuberger (one of the best jokes comes when the pooch enters a phone booth as the beagle Shoeshine and exits in a whirl as superhero-cloaked Underdog), he sets out to clean up Capitol City, romance beautiful spaniel Polly Purebreed and, in due course, deal with Dinklage and his horrid henchman Warburton…

The animal-as-superhero spoof tends to wear thin, the romance between Underdog and Sally the Spaniel unashamedly reprises a key scene from Lady and the Tramp and the widowed father-son-relationship between Belushi and Neuberger is hackneyed. That said, undemanding youngsters should enjoy the mixture of comedy, action and mad melodrama, laced with some smart wisecracks, most of them delivered with just the right edge by Lee who speaks for Underdog. But after a while even kids may find themselves becoming irritated with Underdog habit of speaking in rhyme.

Alan Frank

USA 2007. UK Distributor: Walt Disney. Technicolor.
81 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 Jan 2008