American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story

Zachary Levi as Kurt Warner and Dennis Quaid as Dick Vermeil in American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story. Photo Credit: Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate.

American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story is a by-the-book sports biopic that would feel right at home on the Hallmark Channel.

If you know Kurt Warner’s story, then you already know that he is the greatest undrafted player in NFL history. Undrafted out of Northern Iowa and later released by the Green Bay Packers, Warner ended up stocking shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa. From there, he went onto the AFL, NFL Europe, and finally the St. Louis Rams. We all know what happens next: Trent Green’s injury forces Rams coach Dick Vermeil to name Warner as the starting QB. All along the way, Kurt’s wife, Brenda (Anna Paquin), and his family are the only people encouraging him to keep pursuing his dreams. The rest is history.

I have so many bones to pick that I do not even know where to start. Warner played three seasons with the Iowa Barnstormers but in watching the film, you’d have thought it was just one season. In truth, Warner signed as the Rams backup QB in 1998. However, the film makes it feel as though everything happens in 1999. Did they do this for the dramatic stakes? Maybe. Sure, American Underdog plays as a feel-good story but the script could make a better effort in showing these things being spread out.

It is 1999 when the film gets into Warner’s rookie season with the St. Louis Rams. However, I have no choice but to point out that the aerial view of downtown St. Louis begs to differ. I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan. As such, I can spot the difference between the new stadium and the previous cookie cutter stadium. It is the old stadium that should be in this shot, not the new stadium. How the filmmakers can royally screw this up is beyond me! I’d like to say that this is what took me out of the film but I’d be lying. What took me out of the film is the casting of a transphobic actor.

It’s not lost on me that Levi is 41 years old and portrays Warner during his college years. This makes it all the more harder to buy into Levi portraying Warner during the Northern Iowa years. I get that Zachary Levi looks similar to Kurt Warner. In having Levi play Warner in college, he stands out in doing so.

If you’re a Kurt Warner fan, you’ll probably enjoy American Underdog.

DIRECTORS: The Erwin Brothers (Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin)
SCREENWRITERS: Jon Erwin & David Aaron Cohen and Jon Gunn
CAST: Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Ser’Darius Blain, and Dennis Quaid

Lionsgate will release American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story in theaters on December 25, 2021.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.