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The Suburbanite
  • Local scenery adds appeal to heartfelt 'Underdogs'

  • “Underdogs,” opening today at Tinseltown, offers the unprecedented treat of watching a feature film shot entirely in the greater Canton area.

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  • When was the last time you could go to a local movie theater and watch a feature film shot entirely in the greater Canton area?
    Um, never!
    “Underdogs,” opening today at Tinseltown, offers this unprecedented treat. Among many recognizable locations are the Hoover Company, the Imperial Room in downtown Canton, the football stadiums at St. Thomas Aquinas and Central Catholic high schools, Twistee Treat in Massillon, Gionino’s Pizzeria, WHBC, The Repository and Judge Edward Elum’s Massillon courtroom.
    The two rival quarterbacks in the film are from the St. Thomas Aquinas Knights and the Hoover High Vikings.
    Beyond the fun local ties, “Underdogs” is an entertaining low-budget indie with impressive visual style and a heartfelt, family-friendly story about, yes, underdogs. I could imagine it airing on ABC Family.
    I especially enjoyed the performances of the fresh young leads — Logan Huffman as the Aquinas quarterback and Maddie Hasson as a Hoover cheerleader — whose high-school romance is sensitively played and convincing. Huffman has an understated intensity to him that could take him far.
    Veteran actor D.B. Sweeney is believable and persuasive as the new coach at Aquinas, who sees promise beyond the team’s string of losses. “We’re gonna rebuild this program,” he tells his doubtful players. Sweeney has some easygoing scenes with pop singer Natalie Imbruglia, who has a natural screen presence as a bartender the coach befriends.
    “Underdogs” travels in familiar themes — a girl caught between an arrogant jock (played by Charlie Carver) and a sensitive guy, a sports team turning things around against all odds — but it is involving nonetheless.
    Less developed and compelling is the secondary storyline involving the arrogant jock’s father, a powerful local businessman (played by familiar character actor Richard Portnow) whose factory employs Huffman’s downtrodden father (an overly quirky William Mapother), who has invented a miraculous space heater.
    I wish “Underdogs” had stuck to its strongest elements — the teen triangle, the rise of the Knights and the team’s redemptive coach — and left its business and economy themes for a different film.