CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS flies high amid strong comedic performances
After selling more than 70 million copies, author Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants has found itself onto the big screen in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Once the most banned book in America (2012 and 2013 beating out Fifty Shades of Grey if you can believe it), Dreamworks brings the series to life with a strong comedic cast including Kevin Hart (George) and Ed Helms (Captain Underpants). Filled with simple yet effective potty humor, Captain Underpants succeeds in hilarity for children and adults.
For those unfamiliar with the books, the Captain Underpants series revolves around George Beard (voiced by Hart) and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch), two fourth grade friends who create a comic book series about Captain Underpants. George serves as writer while Harold is the artist behind their potty-humor filled comic book about a hero whose costume is made up of underpants and a cape, and who flings underpants at the bad guys. As you can expect in any children’s book or movie, there is a villain…Principal Krupp (also voiced by Helms). Principal Krupp is a bitter, single guy who hates the arts and prefers to see kids unhappy like him. A man who takes pride in forcing kids to attend Saturday Invention Convention multiple times a month and even fires the science teacher for choosing to spend the weekend with his family.
Friends since kindergarten, George and Harold are pranksters with reserved seats outside of the principal’s office. Having never been caught, Krupp continually threatens the two deviants, but it is only after he catches them in the act that he can finally execute his executive order of (dum dum dum!) splitting them up into different classes. Oh, the horror! Just as you would expect young friends to act, this is the worst punishment that could ever be exacted upon them. All looks lost until George attempts to hypnotize Krupp with his cereal box ring. Imagine George and Harold’s surprise when it works and they realize they can turn their mean principal into anything they want. After toying with a few choices, it’s Captain Underpants that they ultimately decide upon. The only issue is that George and Harold now have to manage the two personalities, Krupp an angry and miserable man who will do all he can to split up best friends and Captain Underpants, a happy yet dim-witted hero. With the ability to switch personalities at the snap of their fingers or a drop of water, writer Nicholas Stoller (Muppets and Storks) brings laughs to nearly every personality change.
The boys ultimately meet their match, however, when Captain Underpants, undercover as Principal Krupp, hires mad genius and hater of laughter, Professor P, to teach the recent teacher-less science class. Fearing the damage that Professor P (voiced by Nick Kroll) could inflict upon them and the school, George and Harold uncover Professor P’s real name (perhaps one of the best running jokes in the film), tell the entire school and, as a result, put Professor P’s plan of revenge into motion: to rid the world of laughter forever. It is now up to George, Harold, and Captain Underpants to save their school and the world from this maniacal madman.
Strong kudos to many of those involved with this movie. Director David Soren (Turbo) and the animators do an excellent job of using vibrant color and great darkness to represent happiness and sadness, respectively. Kevin Hart is (thankfully) controlled and plays well off of Middleditch. Helms too is reigned in as Krupp and Captain Underpants providing a perfect balance. And Nick Kroll as Professor P is the perfect amount of crazy for a kid’s movie.
Parents who hated the books and caused it to ultimately land atop the banned book list because of “offensive language” (translation: jokes about poop and farts), partial nudity (translation: he is in his underpants), violence (substantially more tame than anything in Tom and Jerry or between Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner), and misbehavior (George and Harold as pranksters are often getting into trouble) will cry foul with this laugh-out-loud film. For those parents that have a sense of humor, understand that all kids find jokes about poop and farts funny, and recognize the difference between real-life and entertainment, you’ve found the perfect film for you and your children to enjoy. And at 90 minutes from start to end, it is safe to say that Soren, directing just his second animated film, understands his audience.