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Underdog 2021

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Good Docs
Produced by Aaron Woolf
Directed by Tommy Hyde
Streaming, 82 mins

General Adult
Agriculture; Mental health; Sports

Date Entered: 03/27/2024

Reviewed by Stephanie A. Diaz, Education, Instruction, Outreach Librarian, Case Western Reserve University

Doug Butler shines in Underdog, a feature-length documentary about Butler’s life as a Vermont dairy farmer and sled dog racing enthusiast.

Throughout the first act, it appears as though the film’s main focus is about the struggles of running a modern family farm. Underdog certainly explores this topic on a micro level. Butler discusses his challenges with the industry, concerns about ownership succession, and about his friends, fellow farmers he has lost to suicide. Like these farmers, Butler has dedicated his life to and crafted an identity around the work.

In addition to tending to the family farm, we learn that Butler, and in some circles known as, “Party on a Sled,” has a unique hobby--he’s a well-known sled dog racer or “musher” and competes with his pack of Alaskan husky and pointer mixes. As the film progresses, the audience observes Butler charm almost everyone he encounters with his endearing sense of humor and warm personality. Butler’s charisma seems to work in his favor, chatting up a loan officer to make a deal on his mounting debt, however, throughout Underdog there remains a constant level of uncertainty regarding the future of his farm. By the end, it becomes clear that Doug Butler is the star and main subject of Underdog. The film is warmhearted and bittersweet, highly recommended for adult audiences with an affinity for human interest stories and for educational audiences interested in farming, agriculture, and mental health.

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