Zachary Levi: What To Watch If You Like The American Underdog Star
Kurt Warner is not the first underdog Zachary Levi played.
It makes perfect sense to me that Zachary Levi was cast as the lead in the sports biopic American Underdog (in theaters December 25, 2021), and not just because he is nearly a dead ringer for former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner.
Most of the 41-year-old Louisiana native’s most notable roles could easily be described as underdogs, from the title role of the hit NBC action-comedy series Chuck, to the super-sized version of young Billy Batson in one of most delightfully funny and best superhero movies as of late, Shazam! In fact, let’s start with those titles as we explore our picks for the best Zachary Levi movies and TV shows available to watch now on streaming or as a digital rental.
Chuck (Amazon Prime)
An average, unassuming tech consultant in his mid-20s (Zachary Levi) discovers that the beautiful woman who surprisingly showed interest in him (The Handmaid's Tale star Yvonne Strahovski) is really a secret agent assigned to protect him when the United States government’s most costly secrets are downloaded into his brain by accident.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: The titular super geek turned super spy on Chuck - the Emmy-winning cult hit from co-creators Chris Fedak and Josh Schwartz which ran from 2005 to 2012 - was the first-ever lead role for Zachary Levi and the one that made him a star, leading to even more roles that perfectly balanced his talent for both comedy and action.
Stream Chuck on Amazon Prime.
Buy Chuck on Amazon.
Shazam! (HBO Max)
A good-natured teen who was abandoned at a younger age (Asher Angel) becomes an adult-sized superhero (Zachary Levi) with a wondrous variety of abilities after he becomes specially chosen by a wizard (Djimon Honsou) to defeat a power-hungry scientist who has become endowed with the power of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: One of the best roles to encompass Zachary Levi’s talent for both comedy and action is the title character of 2019’s Shazam! - the refreshingly light and hilarious comic book movie debut of horror movie director David F. Sandberg, whose sequel (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) is one of the most highly anticipated upcoming DC movies at the moment.
Stream Shazam! on HBO Max.
Rent/Buy Shazam! on Amazon.
Thor: The Dark World And Thor: Ragnarok (Disney+)
Years after saving his estranged human lover (Academy Award winner Natalie Portman) and the universe from an evil race of Dark Elves, the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard and reunites with his corrupt, adoptive brother (Tom Hiddleston), whom he must team-up with (among others they meet on a barbaric planet) to save their kingdom again from their recently awakened sister (Cate Blanchett).
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: While Shazam! may have been his first lead role in a comic book movie, a nearly unrecognizable Zachary Levi actually made his comic book movie debut in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World as fellow Asgardian (and blonde) warrior Fandral, whom he would also briefly reprise in Thor: Ragnarok four years later.
Stream Thor: The Dark World on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Thor: The Dark World on Amazon.
Stream Thor: Ragnarok on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Thor: Ragnarok on Amazon.
A woman with extremely long, enchanted blonde hair (musician and Emmy-nominated This is Us cast member Mandy Moore) who has spent her entire life locked away at the top of a tower accepts an offer from a thief on the run (Zachary Levi) to be her guide through the outside world.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: The Marvel movies were not Zachary Levi’s first experience working with Disney, which was the studio behind the 2010 hit Tangled - a fun, adventurous reimagining of the classic Grimm Brothers story of Rapunzel, that would later inspire a few short spin-offs and a Disney Channel original series on which Levi reprised his role as the chivalrous Flynn Ryder (or so he likes to call himself).
Stream Tangled on Disney+.
Rent/Buy Tangled on Amazon.
Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel (Peacock)
Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler), and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) take a break from their careers as pop stars and decide to focus on their education, where they strike up a romantic rivalry of sorts with a fellow, female trio of chipmunks whom they square off against at the school’s annual musical talent competition.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: A year before lending his voice to Tangled, Zachary Levi starred in one of his earliest contributions to family-friendly entertainment, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel - the second installment in the franchise of live-action/animated hybrid musicals, in which Levi plays Toby (the cousin of Jason Lee’s character, Dave), who looks after the titular trio as Dave recovers from a painful accident.
Stream Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel on Peacock.
Rent/Buy Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel on Amazon.
The Star (Amazon Rental)
A courageous, little donkey (former The Walking Dead cast member Steven Yeun) calls upon the help of his fellow animal friends in order to help guide a pregnant woman and her husband to safety before she gives birth to a child of great importance.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: In 2017, Zachary Levi returned to play another animated character when he joined the “star-studded” cast of The Star - a retelling of the birth of Jesus Christ (or, in other words, the very first Christmas) told mainly from the point of view of the animals involved, in which Levi voiced the infant messiah’s Earthly foster father, Joseph.
Rent/Buy The Star on Amazon.
Alias Grace (Netflix)
An alienist (Kingsman: The Secret Service star Edward Holcroft) questions whether or not a young woman (former Letterkenny cast member Sarah Gadon) who has no recollection of committing a murder she was convicted of is truly guilty of the crime, or just insane, in 19th century Canada.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: Inspired by the historical fiction novel of the same name by The Handmaid’s Tale scribe Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace is a captivating and thought-provoking miniseries that premiered exclusively on Netflix in 2017 and also starred Zachary Levi as one of its purely fictional characters - a peddler named Jeremiah Pontelli, who becomes great friends with Grace Marks while she works as a servant for the couple she was later convicted of murdering.
Stream Alias Grace on Netflix.
Psych: The Movie (Peacock)
Three years after relocating their office to San Francisco, a faux police psychic (James Roday Rodriguez) and his best friend and business partner (Dulé Hill) investigate the near fatal shooting of his detective fiancée’s (Maggie Lawson) new partner, while also trying to locate the ring he proposed to her with three years earlier.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: It is actually quite difficult to imagine Zachary Levi playing an antagonistic character, but he does a pretty good job at it in 2017’s Psych: The Movie - the first feature-length continuation of the hit USA dramedy series - as William McGoldrick, whom Shawn Spencer and Burton “Gus” Guser decide to nickname “The Thin White Duke” due to his striking resemblance to David Bowie.
Stream Psych: The Movie on Peacock.
Office Uprising (Crackle)
A young slacker (Titans star Brenton Thwaites), his best friend (Deadpool movies actor Karan Soni), and his crush (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist cast lead Jane Levy) must work together to defend themselves when a bad batch of an experimental energy drink turns almost everyone else from their weapons manufacturing company into zombie-like killers.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: Less than a year after Psych: The Movie first premiered on USA Network in December 2017, Zachary Levi broke bad once again (and still to impressive effect) as a top corporate executive who becomes a murderous psychopath in 2018’s Office Uprising, which might make you curious to check out Blood Fest - another crazy horror-comedy movie released in 2018, in which Levi makes an appearance as himself.
Stream Office Uprising on Crackle.
Also try streaming Blood Fest On Amazon Prime.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime)
A Jewish-American woman (Rachel Brosnahan) who has earned everything that she has ever asked for (a husband, kids, and a lovely home) suffers a life upended when her husband leaves her for his secretary, until an impromptu performance at a cafe inspires her to redefine herself as a stand-up comedian in the late 1950s.
Why it’s worth checking out if you like Zachary Levi: In the second season of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Emmy-winning, Amazon Prime original period dramedy, Zachary Levi joined The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel cast as Benjamin Ettenberg - a successful New York City surgeon who becomes absolutely smitten with our title character, “Midge,” after her mother (Marin Hinkle) and father (Tony Shalhoub) encourage her to meet him.
Stream The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime Season 2.
Outside of the aforementioned American Underdog and Shazam 2, there are plenty of other upcoming Zachary Levi movies to look forward to - including The Unbreakable Boy, and Richard Linklater’s Netflix original animated coming-of-age comedy Apollo 10-1/2, which both come out in 2022. Sony’s live-action adaptation of Harold and the Purple Crayon is set to come out in 2023, and the comedy, Undercover (also starring Cole Sprouse), is now in pre-production.
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Jason has been writing since he was able to pick up a washable marker, with which he wrote his debut illustrated children's story, later transitioning to a short-lived comic book series and (very) amateur filmmaking before finally settling on pursuing a career in writing about movies in lieu of making them. Look for his name in just about any article related to Batman.
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By Mike Reyes