CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE:
A POOP-JOKE FILLED NOSTALGIA TRIP THAT STAYS FAITHFUL TO ITS SOURCE MATERIAL!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** ½ out of 4
Captain Underpants ready to save the day in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Out of all the movies coming out this year one that I was very concerned about was Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie based on the beloved children’s books by Dav Pilkey. It’s not that I didn’t understand the appeal of these books, far from it I was a huge fan of the Captain Underpants books growing up but I was a little skeptical about whether or not they would translate well to film when I first heard a movie was in development.
Fortunately, DreamWorks Animation, who in my opinion haven’t made a great movie since Kung Fu Panda 3 (Yeah, I wasn’t a fan of Trolls or The Boss Baby, sorry folks) surpassed my expectations with a consistently faithful adaptation of the books that delivers everything a Captain Underpants purist would expect. Simple cartoonish animation, wacky pranks, poop jokes that surprisingly never overstay their welcome in this film, and 4th wall jokes and homages to the books and it ends up being one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year (And I’ve seen most of the superhero movie releases this year).
The film follows two elementary school boys named George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart-Top Five, Central Intelligence, The Secret Life of Pets) and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Thomas Middleditch-Being Flynn, The Campaign, Silicon Valley) who are the best of friends and pretty much inseparable. They pull pranks together, make each other laugh, and more importantly write and sell their very own comic books featuring their greatest creation, Captain Underpants.
Unfortunately, their principal, Mr. Krupp (voiced by Ed Helms-The Office, The Hangover trilogy, The Lorax) isn’t their biggest fan and he gets fed up with their shenanigans to the point where he tries to place them in separate classes in hopes to annihilate their friendship. George and Harold take action and use the magical device known as the 3D Hypno Ring to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and transform him into the greatest superhero of all time (Well, at least in their world), The Amazing Captain Underpants.
So, with Mr. Krupp under their control George and Harold will never be separated as they can just snap their fingers and turn him into Captain Underpants whenever they want. This leads to hijinks, pranks, shenanigans, and chaos galore from punching mimes, fighting an inflatable gorilla, and a carnival style recess with sugar rushed kids.
Things get even more chaotic when a mad scientist named Professor Poopypants (voiced by Nick Kroll-Date Night, Kroll Show, Sing) goes undercover as the new science teacher at the school and plots to rid the world of laughter (For understandable reasons). It’s up to Captain Underpants, George, and Harold to stop him and save the day before everyone becomes dull, lifeless zombies like that annoying twerp, Melvin Sneedly (voiced unrecognizably by Jordan Peele-Key & Peele, Bob’s Burgers, Storks).
The film also features the voices of Kristen Schaal (Toy Story 3, Bob’s Burgers, Gravity Falls) as Edith the school’s shy lunch lady with a crush on Mr. Krupp, Dee Dee Rescher (The King of Queens, Malcolm in the Middle, Star VS the Forces of Evil) as Ms. Ribble, Brian Posehn (Pom Poko, Surf’s Up, The Big Bang Theory) as guidance counselor, Mr. Rected, Mel Rodriguez (George Lopez, Getting On, The Last Man on Earth) as science teacher, Mr. Fyde, Grey DeLisle (The Fairly OddParents, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Avatar: The Last Airbender) as secretary, Ms. Anthrope, and Fred Tatasciore (TMNT, Ultimate Spider-Man, Power Rangers) as gym teacher, Mr. Meaner.
Overall, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is one of those movies that probably should have just been a cash grab for kids but it ends up being one of the funniest and most imaginative animated films in recent years. The animation is kept simple and resembles the character designs from Pilkey’s books but in my opinion the style of the animation and energy is just as appealing as Pixar or traditional DreamWorks CG, it’s fast, frantic, and the comedic timing is through the roof.
But what really sells it is the voice cast, I thought Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch did fine as the voices of George and Harold but at times their voices get a little distracting and might have worked better if they were voiced by kids but I understand getting celebrities in there. Who steals the show here is Ed Helms as Mr. Krupp/Captain Underpants, I was onboard for the movie as soon as he was announced and he did not disappoint, I’ve seen his humorously angry side many times before in The Office so casting him as mean old, Mr. Krupp was some of the best casting I’ve ever seen in a children’s book adaptation since Jim Carrey in The Grinch.
The humor is beyond juvenile but fits the tone of the story and I applaud the film for managing to make something as low-brow as poop and fart jokes funny because a lot of kids movies in the past have abused them to the point where they become tired and stale. Something about the cartoonish animation, tone, and timing make them go from funny to flat-out hilarious, if it was in the animation style of something like Toy Story or Shrek it wouldn’t have been nearly as funny so simple animation wins over cutting edge here.
Besides the crude humor the film brilliantly throws in 4th wall jokes and callbacks to the original books. George and Harold at times will freeze the scene and talk to the audience about what’s happening, transition to hand-drawn animation scenes, and there’s even a reference to the Flip O-Rama that’s flat out hilarious (It’s like the kids version of Deadpool, if Ryan Reynolds went bald and ran around in his underwear).
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a silly but extremely faithful adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s books that will release the inner child in all of us. To be honest this film is just as entertaining as any comic book movie and this movie is about a superhero who fights bad guys in his underwear and has an evil genius named Poopypants, don’t judge a book by its cover.