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Based on the True Story of Legendary Quarterback Kurt Warner

"By all accounts, my dream, my story, is impossible. Thatís just the kind of story this is."
Kurt Warner

American Underdog is a 2021 American biographical sports film about National Football League Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to winning Super Bowl XXXIV. Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, the film stars Zachary Levi as Warner, Anna Paquin as his wife Brenda, and Dennis Quaid as St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil.


This film provides examples of:

  • The Benchwarmer: Warner's college coach refuses to play him because he won't stay in the pocket.
  • Big Game: The biggest in American Football, Super Bowl XXXIV.
  • Biopic: Kurt Warner's story, from playing college football, to stocking shelves, to playing arena football, to winning Super Bowl XXXIV. Interspersed with all of that, the film also pays a great deal of attention to how his pursuit of a pro football career shaped his relationship with his girlfriend and wife Brenda, her son Zack, and the rest of her family.
  • Bookends:
    • While stocking shelves, Kurt sees Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre on a Wheaties cereal box. Later, Kurt appears on a Wheaties cereal box.
    • Young Kurt's blue football shirt (with tape forming his name and the number 13) mirrors Kurt's actual Rams uniform.
  • Braving the Blizzard: After running out of gas during a snowstorm, Kurt runs a few miles back to the nearest gas station and then runs back to the vehicle where Brenda and the kids are trying to stay warm.
  • Cheap Costume: As a child, Kurt makes a football uniform by sticking tape to a shirt
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Warner stocks shelves at night at a supermarket just to get by. Playing arena football (which he considers "a circus") could also count, because he initially signed the contract only because it paid more than the store job.
  • Forgot to Pay the Bill: Kurt and Brenda's power is cut. Earlier, he told her not to pay the bill yet, and they never got around to paying it.
  • Lives in a Van: After his tryout with Green Bay ends badly, Kurt was living in the green SUV that he bought with his signing bonus.
  • Paying in Coins: After running out of gas during a snowstorm, Kurt runs a few miles back to the nearest gas station where he pays with a couple dollar bills and whatever change they could scrounge together in the vehicle.
  • Rags to Riches: Or if you prefer, supermarket to Super Bowl.
  • Real Footage Re-creation: Key plays during Super Bowl XXXIV were painstakingly choreographed and recreated for the movie, which allowed those scenes to be intercut with archive footage from the game.
  • Real Person Cameo: The real Kurt and Brenda are at a table in the background during some of the bar scenes.
  • Second-Act Breakup: Brenda breaks up with Kurt because of the stress of his commute to play arena football.
  • Single Parents Are Undesirable: Brenda is a divorced mom with two kids, and both she and Kurt's mom warn him about the difficulty that involves. He is undeterred.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Brenda starts out this way.
  • Trailer Park Tornado Magnet: After Brenda's parents are killed by a tornado, Kurt passes a devastated trailer park on his way to her parents' suburban neighborhood.
  • Training Montage:
    • Warner has a variant when his college coach teaches him to stay in the pocket.
      Coach Allen: You could throw, but you cannot leave the pocket. You want your shot? You take the pain.
    • Later, we see him staying in shape for the next year's draft (interspersed with stocking shelves) after being cut by Green Bay.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Football fans know how Super Bowl XXXIV ended.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Details about the rest of Kurt's NFL career, Kurt and Brenda's marriage and family, and Zack's life.
  • Worth It: After Brenda gives Kurt her number, she notices that his car isn't in front of her house. He says that he walked, and she points out that the university is 3 miles away.
    Kurt: Oh, yeah. Totally worth it.

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