‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ Film Review

Grade: A-

It’s a funny coincidence how two superhero movies are playing over the same weekend. Not only that, but the two superheroes I am talking about have been long overdue for a movie. While almost everyone else is seeing ‘Wonder Woman’ – which took 75 years to bring to the big screen as a solo effort (She had a ‘Lego’ incarnation of her in ‘The Lego Movie’ and ‘The Lego Batman Movie’, as well as a supporting role in ‘Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice’) – I went to watch my childhood dream come true, with ‘Peanuts Movie’ style of brightly colored animation and funny juvenile humor that captures the original source material’s spirit without trying to be too serious. (‘Baywatch’ should have taken notes.)

In case you didn’t know already, (or were too old to know) ‘Captain Underpants’ was a series of children’s books created by a man named Dav Pilkey, who came up with the idea for the character in elementary school, where he got in trouble for his behavior. This same behavior also inspired the imaginative protagonists: Best friends/neighbors George Beard and Harold Hutchins, who had to deal with their strict principal Mr. Krupp, while making comic books for each other’s entertainment. The books were controversial – and put on the list of banned books – for being “insensitive”, “unsuitable for age groups”, and “teaching kids to disobey authority”. While all this is controversial enough, the books were a fun read and released my excitement, as well as imagination with each flip of the page.

A movie was eventually made by 20th Century Fox, and Dreamworks Animation (Fact: This is the two studios’ last collaboration on animated films, due to Universal taking over for Dreamworks Animation), and it looks exactly as if it could be made in 2D (Along with ‘The Peanuts Movie’, it seems that if your studio is not in Japan, then a drawing could be easily transferred to digital computers to get the job done, seeing as how drawing seems tiring for even the most skilled animators in America these days.), adding to how bright the animation is, ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ is appealing to look at with each action these characters are taking. With every cartoon sound effect came a chuckle from me, as well as a laugh from the many parents with their children who decided to see this over ‘Wonder Woman’. Not only that, but the film is entertaining and not afraid to be itself; much like Pilkey.

‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ blends together the story of the first book, as well as elements from ‘Attack of the Talking Toilets’ and ‘The Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants’ (with Nick Kroll perfectly channeling his ‘Sing!’ character, Gunter, as the titular professor, who wants to rid the world of children’s laughter while being introduced as a forced supervillain that didn’t work for me as well as the movie itself did.), as well as references to other books in Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’ series (Most as photos in the end credits); yet feels like ‘Deadpool’ for kids, with the protagonists, George Beard (Voice of Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Voice of Thomas Middleditch), breaking the fourth wall every now and then to serve as narrators and poke fun at superhero comic book tropes, which digs through the depths of what was a simple, yet entertaining children’s book series and makes it a satire of the ridiculous fashion sense superheroes seem to have when it comes to dressing up (You want a superhero in tights, or an animal costume? Forget that! This superhero only needs a drape and tighty-whities in order to fight crime!)

The characters of George and Harold come off to adults as troublemakers who play pranks, but in reality, are just imaginative children who just want to spread joy and happiness to their depressing dystopia of an elementary school run by the principal Mr. Krupp (Voice of Ed Helms, who clearly gives off the right amount of anger and crazed insanity as Krupp, and  a cheery, almost too-happy bit of overconfidence as the titular hero). Seriously, if you were going to a school that felt like a George Orwell novel, you would want to try to break the rules too. Their pranks get them sent to Krupp’s office more times than any. One prank at the spontaneously set-up “Invention Convention” and Krupp threatens them with the decision to place the two best friends in separate classes.

The day after, they try to retrieve a frog with a built-in nanny cam made by their humorless scientifically interested classmate Melvin (Voice of Jordan Peele trying to walk in his buddy Keegan-Michael Key’s shoes by doing more voice work), and end up finding George’s hypno-ring he found in a cereal box. Once Krupp walks in his office and attempts to put his signature on the “life-changing” form permanently separating them forever, George attempts to hypnotize Krupp, which after a few bits of the usual cliché “Act-like-a-chicken/monkey”, becomes Captain Underpants. What follows is trouble and a never-ending childlike spirit.

While ‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’ almost feels like a forced attempt at being a feature-film, with both the first half’s ‘Adventures of Captain Underpants’ story, and the second half’s ‘Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants‘ storyline, with an injection of ‘Attack of the Talking Toilets’ blending the two. It is entertaining for both children and those who grew up reading/knowing the source material; as well as being a fun time at the movies.  

 

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