In 1989 martial artist Phillip Rhee burst onto the big screen in the martial arts classic Best of the Best. While the second film in the series received a theatrical release, parts three and four were released straight to home entertainment with Rhee stepping in as the sole lead as well as the director’s chair. Now he is back to double duty in his family film Underdog Kids that is a far cry from the action films he previously starred in, but can it bring the family message and action it is hoping to deliver or will it not be able to get the need points for a win?
Underdog Kids follows a group of inner city kids from a poor neighbourhood who go up against the undefeated Beverly Hills Junior National Karate Team with the help of an ex-MMA fighter struggling with trying to get back to his glory days. Fans of Rhee have to no going into this film that it is a family kid’s movie all the way, so don’t expect the hardcore violent action of his previous films. Fans are treated to a couple of moments of Rhee in action, but this film is about the kids on the team and their struggles to come together both as a team as well as martial artists. Each of them is given a chance to shine in not only the martial arts, but also with their own personal struggles. This helps the story show them grow as people as well as martial artists. It never gets overly heavy, but there are some moments that pull at your heart strings. Each of the kids are dealing with real life situations that people can relate to with one particular being that of a tough angry kid who rarely speaks whose story takes a interesting direction that will likely make you tear up.
They have a great cast rounding this film alongside Rhee including Beau Bridges, Tom Arnold, Max Gail, Patrick Fabian, Greg Grunberg, Ted McGinley, Ellia English, and Hiro from Big Hero 6, Ryan Potter along with cameos from martial arts icons Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Dan Inosanto, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Richard Norton, and Jun Chung. The kids are relative unknowns with most of them delivering decent performances and others a bit silly, but seemingly by design. Upon research it looks as though a lot of them are pretty impressive martial artists themselves and seems they do a lot if not of their own stunts. While you may not get too much action with Rhee that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of martial arts action to enjoy. Most the most impressive moments are during the tournament in the second half of the film that not only allows the main cast to display their talents, but also the members of the rival team.
This film is a feel good story about rising up against the odds and instead of making it just about the martial arts it is about the varying struggles of each individual. This allows the silliness of the big portion of the movie to have fun while infusing some simple moments of heart and struggle to make you better want to cheer for these kids to rise up and not just win the tournament, but win in life. This is not a perfect film as most people may dismiss it for being too silly, but if you look at what Rhee said out to say with the film there is so much more here. If you are looking for a fun family film that is silly, funny and full of great displays of martial arts then give Underdog Kids a try.
For more information head over to http://www.underdogkids.com/home