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Underdog (2021)

In a small town in Vermont lives Doug Butler, a dairy farmer with big dreams. While he loves his farm, his cows, and his wife–he yearns for something else as well. His passion is dog mushing, and he desperately wants to make it to Alaska and race in one of the biggest races in the world. Underdog is Doug’s story as he makes his way cross country to fulfill his destiny and race in the Open North American Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska.

To those that don’t have a passion for dog mushing, I imagine that it might be difficult for them to appreciate the content of Underdog. It honestly doesn’t make much sense to me why Doug is so in love with the sport–all I know is that he loves it. Regardless of my feelings on the subject, Underdog is a massively fun time, as the entirety of the film focuses on Doug, a one-of-a-kind, kind-hearted individual that will warm your soul.

The sport alone may not be enough to warrant a feature-length documentary, but Doug could be the focus of an entire series. He’s so incredibly interesting, and his personality is contagious, constantly putting a smile on the faces of anyone watching Underdog. He’s one of those guys that’s been around the block a time or two, that knows a few things about life–and he’s willing to talk to just about anyone that will listen. Throughout the course of Underdog, Doug is heard reminiscing about his middle school days, his time on the farm, and a series of other things that ultimately have no bearing on his time mushing dogs–and yet, every word from his mouth is entertaining. It doesn't matter if the things he says are relevant, when Doug talks, you listen.

Other than Doug, who might just be the most interesting man in the world, Underdog is your standard documentary. There’s nothing fantastical about it, nothing groundbreaking, nothing unique–all it does is effectively showcase its subject and ensure that viewers fall in love with Doug like Writer-Director Tommy Hyde certainly did. Tommy and his team never let Doug out of their sight, and they effectively bring him to life in ways that constantly allows him to shine and appeal to viewers. Without Doug, or if this film had followed another dog mushing fanatic, Underdog doesn’t leave a lasting impression. Again, Doug is one of a kind, the heart and soul of Underdog.

I have to give credit where credit is due, and while Doug is the lifeblood of Underdog, Hyde and his team are tasked with something massive. They have to travel across the country, from Vermont to Alaska, with Doug in order to showcase his journey and his time mushing dogs. That’s more than forty-five-hundred miles and four days, a journey that would be daunting to anyone–but they follow along, showcasing every major step of his journey, and they do it with great aplomb and expertise. Their task is just as difficult as Doug’s, and together they accomplish something great.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, without Doug Underdog isn’t much. The film isn’t as interesting, it’s not as accessible, and it’s honestly not as good of a film. Doug is the kind of person that you want to root for, that you want to be successful in every facet of life. He makes it easy to love him, and not a second of Underdog goes by that it isn’t made abundantly clear why Doug got his own film.

Directed by Tommy Hyde.

Written by Tommy Hyde & Aaron Woolf.

Starring Doug Butler, etc.




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