Snoop Dogg’s film ‘The Underdoggs’ brings his Los Angeles youth football story to life — Andscape
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — On an unusually rainy day in Los Angeles County, Adan James Carrillo is playing a video game in Snoop Dogg’s Clubhouse arcade along with a slew of other middle school aged kids and their parents. There’s a Raising Cane’s food truck in the parking lot along with a couple other classic cars, which some of the many people milling around are happy about because they’ve never had the chicken from the Louisiana fast-food chain.
As you walk farther into the recesses of the facility, there are reminders all over the walls of the life and career of Calvin Broadus Jr., the man who broke into the American consciousness almost 31 years ago to the date, when he got up off a back room bed behind an ironing board in Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin But A G Thang” video and never looked back.
Personalized jerseys, movie posters, promo images, original artworks, even a commemorative family remembrance rug decorates the hallways, reminding you of the creative journey the rapper first known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has taken to this point. On this day, he’s promoting his new movie The Underdoggs, set for release Friday on Amazon Prime — a film I’d describe as Bad News Bears meets Little Giants with a big bag of The Boondocks sprinkled in the blunt that is the script.
Inspired by Snoop Dogg’s work over the years as a youth football league owner and coach, it’s the tale of a group of kids from Long Beach, California, who are inspired by a shamelessly narcissistic former pro football player who finds himself doing community service in his old neighborhood. To give you an idea, the character that Carrillo plays is nicknamed Titties and there are more F-bombs in this movie than are even remotely possible to count, half of them said by the kids.
It’s vulgar, funny, relentless, gut-wrenching and heartwarming, sort of like the middle school experience itself. And once you meet Snoop Dogg, you realize is sort of like the man himself, too.
“Two Js [the main character, named Jaycen ‘Two Js’ Jennings] ain’t nothing like me,” Snoop Dogg says of his work in the film directed by Charles Stone III. “He’s more like my coach, K. Matt, my defensive coordinator, who was very vulgar, aggressive, passionate, but it was a message behind all of the words that he used and he was my Batman to my Robin. So, I took a lot of his inspiration and put it into my character because Snoop Dogg was kind, he’s gentle. I’m a father, I’m a role model. I’m all of that for the kids, and certain kids you can’t talk to like that. And that’s the side of being a real coach. You have to know which kids and which players can accept that and then which players and kids you have to know how to talk to in a different manner to speak their language.”
This isn’t just something that Snoop Dogg is just blowing smoke about. Since the Snoop Youth Football League was founded in 2005, they’ve had over 60,000 kids participate in their program, which includes cheerleading. A couple dozen of those players have gone on to the NFL. Most recently, Houston Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is the most visible proud alum of the league, something that Snoop Dogg talks about with much joy.
“C.J. is like the perfect example of every kid in my league that makes it to the league. They’re usually not the best player on their team at that time, but they’re the best kid on the team at that time and they understand what’s before them and they haven’t peaked out,” the 52-year-old explained to a roundtable of sportswriters. “C.J. was always calm, he was always a field general, he was always a leader. And he led by the way he moved, the way he conducted himself. No drugs, no partying and no criminal activity, none of that. But he comes from that.
“So how do we separate? We have to find something we love and we have to find people that can inspire us. Coach Superfly in my league was the coach who identified C.J. and dealt with him personally. He deserves a lot of credit because he deals with these kids on a day-to-day basis and he coaches them up. And that’s what I love about my league, is that I get a lot of the credit, but it’s the intricacies of these coaches who do that groundwork who go make sure that these parents have food and money to get by and make sure that these kids are staying the course on school and making sure their grades are way above average, because they know that they’re up against the gun. So you can’t just have an average, you got to be way above average.”
For an American entertainment icon, the man is well in touch with everyday regular life, which is not a given in today’s celebrity society. When he comes into the interview room, which happens to be on his personal basketball court, it has framed photographs of iconic NBA players from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s on the walls. His general countenance is now a stock character in pop culture, as a podcaster friend of mine described it, and it’s clear he’s used that fame and interest in great ways.
He talks about his childhood as a paperboy for the Long Beach Telegram and how he tried to insert as much about his old life into the film as possible as an homage to his upbringing. The most poignant portion of the film comes when the true identities of the kids are finally separated from the ones they want their teammates to believe.
One kid lives in a trailer park, another is lying to his parents that he’s taking after-school math classes, one is a big Game of Thrones nerd, a fourth kid is actually a girl and another blows the movie open when Jaycen realizes that the son of his high school flame is turning out to be just like him: a jerk — and not in a good way.
Complete with a cast of “oh, I know them” types and some more recognizable faces, such as comedian Mike Epps, actor Kandi Burruss and comedian George Lopez, it’s a fun jaunt that kids might watch with their cousins at a sleepover or their bunkmates at sleepaway camp. Plus, it features a recurring character in the form of a podcast rig that hilariously allows Snoop Dogg’s character to record from anywhere, including the bathtub.
While Two Js — and his signature weed-smoking touchdown celebration — aren’t much like Snoop Dogg’s real personality, necessarily, I was curious to know how true to life the circumstance of film’s premise was.
Growing up in Black America, when someone does make it, you never know how they’re going to react to fame, fortune or misfortune. The central theme of the movie involves reminding yourself to never forget who you are or where you came from.
“There’s a lot of guys that I know that feel like [they can’t go back]. And a lot of the reasons are the things that the Black community put on you when you become successful, how we expect and we demand. That’s the part that is always overlooked,” Snoop Dogg explained this week, wearing a green Death Row Records varsity jacket, a Sonic the Hedgehog chain, and Wu-Tang Clan bracelet.
“But me identifying that in this movie is showing that I care and that I know that there are guys out there and hopefully they’ll see this and they’ll understand that, ‘Let me pull back and get back into the community.’ Because I know some friends of mine who are exceptional football players, Hall of Famers who got the same flak that JJ’s got. And somehow somewhere, I watched them working their way back into the community. And that’s the depiction of what this could be as an example of greatness. Not just the bad side, but going from bad to good.”