Had a screenwriter pitched the making of the Kurt Warner story, Hollywood studio execs would probably have passed. Not believable enough.
But Kurt’s real life story is true, and events that unfolded are as awesome as it gets.
The undrafted quarterback hailed from a small college and stocked shelves in a grocery store to make ends meet.
He first played professionally on an arena football field in his home state, where the Iowa Barnstormers took him on as quarterback.
After a time he was signed as a backup QB on the NFL team of the then-St. Louis Rams. When the starter went down with an injury, Kurt was able to lead the team to one victory after another, culminating in a Super Bowl win, where he was named both League and Super Bowl MVP.
Some use the word “impossible” to describe his life trajectory. But the same would go for a lot of the bullet points of his bio, as the movie “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” underscores.
On Christmas Day 2021, the film hit the big screens. It won the hearts of football fans as well as non-jaded cinema buffs who still enjoy stories that hail the human spirit’s triumph over adversity.
The original plan for the film was to have it released in Winter of 2020. But COVID-related delays ended up pushing the release date back.
The screenplay is derived from a book co-written by Kurt and journalist Michael Silver called “All Things Possible.” The movie itself is directed by the Erwin Brothers, Jon and Andrew, modern-day virtuosos of the faith-based genre.
This same duo made a film back in 2018 called “I Can Only Imagine,” which wildly exceeded box-office expectations by taking in over $70 million on a budget of only $7 million.
The Erwin’s latest project not only opened with almost $6 million, it remained in the top four over New Year’s weekend, tallying up a cumulative total of over $15 million.
It received a coveted A+ from audiences via CinemaScore and garnered mostly favorable reviews from the frequently hard-to-charm film critic community.
Zachary Levi plays the lead role of Kurt. Levi’s prior roles include him being featured in the 2007 television series “Chuck” as well as in the 2019 superhero movie “Shazam!”
Audiences first encounter a young Kurt as he watches renowned quarterback Joe Montana secure a Super Bowl win.
At each juncture of his involvement with the sport of football, it seems that Kurt is destined to deal with obstacles: Frustration at being benched and being kept off the field at Northern Iowa University because he doesn’t see eye to eye with his coach (played by Adam Baldwin); And when he finally gets his shot with an NFL team, how the offensive coordinator appears to take pleasure in making things as difficult as possible for the backup QB candidate.
Thankfully for Kurt, Head Coach Dick Vermeil (played by Dennis Quaid) has a hunch that the player before him has potential, and he keeps him on the team.
Intriguingly, the central focus of the film turns out not to be sports. Instead it is a love story surrounding Kurt and Brenda, Kurt’s bride of two dozen years (played by Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin).
For Kurt, it is the proverbial love at fist sight. His eyes catch a glimpse of Brenda in a country music nightspot. After some tutoring in country dancing, Kurt musters up the nerve to ask Brenda to dance. Her response, “’Bout time.”
She refuses to give Kurt her phone number. Instead she tells him that, as a single divorced mother with two young children, he should want nothing to do with her life. She punctuates her message by driving away before he has a chance to respond.
He nevertheless manages to find out her address, meet her children, including one child who is blind from a brain injury, and eventually win Brenda’s trust. It all leads to an amazing scene depicting love’s first kiss.
In his initial game as an NFL starter, Kurt and the Rams shock a team known for its fierce defense, the Baltimore Ravens. After an upset win, the QB thanks the Almighty.
The Rams would go on to post a 13-3 record that season, as the team’s offense under Kurt become known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams ultimately defeat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, with Kurt breaking Joe Montana’s record for passing yardage.
The accolades of Super Bowl MVP and League MVP are attached to his name, making him the first undrafted player to secure either of the titles.
Film credits indicate that Kurt would go on to play in two other Super Bowls, and he would become enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Credits also note that the two executive producers, the real life Kurt and Brenda, continue in nuptial bliss with their now-seven children.
What’s the secret to their marital success?
“You have to know that there is a plan for your life,” Brenda says. “We believe in faith, we believe that you have to have faith in your own strength and faith in each other, your relationship to make it through, no matter what.”
As “American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” illustrates, faith is the completed pass into the end zone.