LOS ANGELES (AP) — In Snoop Dogg’s new film “The Underdoggs,” the use of cuss words are the norm between adults and children who find themselves wasted in a booze-chugging scene. But beyond the brash content, the movie’s underlying message centers around the importance of building a resilient community that ultimately turns into family.
“Everybody has their own unique personalities. Everybody has their own story,” said Dogg about the characters in Charles Stone III’s R-rated comedy, which starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime. The story explores the world of youth football — an area the rapper knows all too well.
The film was inspired by Dogg’s real-life experiences through his Southern California-based Snoop Youth Football League he founded more than a decade ago. His league has had several players who ended up in the NFL, including Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud, New England Patriots wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Daiyan Henley.
Dogg is one of the film's producers along with “black-ish” creator Kenya Barris. The movie stars Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Andrew Schulz, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss and George Lopez.
“It’s so close to the kids that I coached in real life,” said Dogg, who portrays an NFL star wide receiver named Jaycen who was tossed out the league for poor sportsmanship. After a traffic violation, he is ordered to do community service in his hometown of Long Beach, California, where he takes on a fledgling youth football team — only for his own selfish reasons.
Through his deed, Snoop's character hopes to propel himself back into the spotlight. He ends up meeting a bunch of potty-mouthed kids who are just as candid as him.
“Snoop's character is coming back to his first love, which is football, then the community and his first high school sweetheart. It all encapsulates family. Sometimes you need family to tell you the truth about yourself. They know you best. Family brings you back to life,” said Sumpter, who plays Cherise, the former girlfriend of Dogg’s character.
Caleb Dixon, a child actor who plays Dwayne, said another theme in the film was understanding the value of returning to your roots.
“Don’t forget about where you came from,” he said. “Don’t forget about the people who helped raised you. Don’t forget about the community that helped raise you. Because once you get to the top... most people tend to forget. But don’t forget. Because when you're down at your worst, it's going to be the people you’re going to look to for help.”
Stone, the film’s director, said Dogg knew the type of outspoken kids to cast for the project. He likened the movie to a remake of the 1976 classic “The Bad News Bears,” but his film has the kids well-versed in delivering adult language, which he says is reality.
The director said the expectation was to steer away from PG- or G-rated movies and to be funny by pushing the boundaries along with an emotional storyline.
“In terms of these kids, it's very easy for the hype to be like ‘This is a movie about cussing 10-year-olds who play football and hijinks ensues.'” said Stone, who directed “Drumline,” “Mr. 3000” and “Paid in Full.”
“But that’ll die out if there’s no emotional current underneath. The cussing has context. As long as there is an emotional story underneath the bells and whistles of cussing, then that works.”
Dogg said he wanted a group of kids who were able to match his character’s begrudged demeanor. The rapper said he researched prolific wide receivers who had struggled off-the-field and straightforward coaches, like the late Bobby Knight, a brilliant and combustible coach who won three NCAA titles at Indiana.
“I wanted to do a little research on coaches who had a different approach, that were more verbal and more aggressive towards the kids," he said. "When you see him, he looks a little bit like Snoop. But when he acts, he ain’t nothing like Snoop.”