Pups United – that’s “United” like Manchester United, not like X2: X-Men United, though it’s enough to make one wonder about the potential for mutant footie teams – tells the story of the unlikely bond between the mascot dogs for children’s football teams from various confusedly stereotyped nations: the British bulldog has an Australian accent; the Mexican dog has a Spanish flag hung in its kennel; the Brazilian team, for whatever reason, have no mascot; and the Russian dog manages to foul up one of those accents that everyone can do (or at least do the cartoon version of). And since when is Russia a footballing nation? Still, things could be worse for a talking dog: the American hero dog, Benny, talks with the voice of Rob Schneider, and gets roped into providing wraparound narration that serves no discernible purpose.
But it isn’t all mildly racist fun for our canine companions, as a pair of familiarly bumbling goons – evil mastermind Jerry (Paul Lang) and manchildish Number Two Lewis (Andrew Tarr) – are out to wreck the tournament for convoluted, though not nonsensical, reasons. While they’re enlivening the film with their comic setpieces (Lewis played the video game Thunder Monkey 2 for weeks, he reveals, losing his job, being dumped by his girlfriend, and having to turn to a life of crime to support himself), our ostensible hero Ryan (Matthew James Roberts), is kicked off the team for apparently unfair reasons. But it doesn’t look like they can win without him – he’s undoubtedly the best tactician in the whole of US children’s football, a rare distinction indeed, as well as the only one competent enough to overcome the semi-professional thieves at work. Usually in talking-animals sports movies, the dogs/kitties/marmosets would rally to save the day through either sporting prowess or animal-only skills, but here the dogs do nothing at all! You could take them out of the film and not change things, because the conflict on the pitch and off is between human characters.
The best of those human characters are undoubtedly Jerry and Lewis (oh, ha ha), played by Paul Lang and Andrew Tarr respectively, far more likeable and charismatic than the heroes. It’s often a danger in these types of films, because they’re not allowed to do anything truly evil lest it make the film too dark overall, which also means there’s no clear reason to root against them. If anything, the knowledge they’re going to be foiled, for definitely definite, by a bunch of charmless kids and dogs, makes them more sympathetic. Their only crimes are greed and idiocy, and if greed and idiocy are so wrong, then how can we root for a Schneider-voiced hero dog?
Pups United is released today (26th October)! Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the box below!