Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a delightful adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s source material.
This animated feature centers around George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). They are the best of friends who spend most of their time pulling pranks on their unsuspecting teachers and creating stories for their absurd comic book Captain Underpants. Principal Krupp (Ed Helms) has spent the better part of the last few years trying to catch George and Harold in the act but to no avail. Eventually, they do get caught in the act (on videotape) sabotaging the invention competition. Principal Krupp’s dreams have come true and he decides to separate the two in hopes of sabotaging their friendship. In an effort to derail his plans, the boys attempt to hypnotize the principal. What they didn’t realize is their plans worked too well and not only did they hypnotize Principal Krupp, they have him believing that he’s their comic creation, Captain Underpants. While this is unfolding, an evil is lurking amongst in the form of the diabolical Professor Poopypants (Yes, that is his name and he’s voiced by Nick Kroll). Will George and Harold be able to undo the hypnosis that they have their principal under? Will Captain Underpants have to face off against Professor Poopypants?
What made this movie fun was seeing how director David Soren and writer Nick Stoller brought Pilkey’s universe to life. They didn’t just rely on the strength of the principle characters. Soren and Stoller wrote strong comedic dialogue for secondary characters such as Melvin (The class snitch played by Jordan Peele) and Lunch Lady Edith (Kristen Schaal). Their talents combined with Hart, Helms, and Middleditch resulted in a more well-rounded experience.
There is a nice balance between the absurdity of the narrative and the heart behind this tale. Remember, this story is about two boys who don’t want their friendship to end.
Helms was an excellent choice to voice the principal. He has the range to play the “stuffy” principal as well as the overtop pantsless crime fighter.
Loved the use of sock puppets to connect different parts of the narrative with the source material.
The animation popped on the screen and held the audience’s attention, including my four-year-old son’s.
What Didn’t Work
At times it appeared to try just a tad too hard to hit on those tropes associated with superhero films. That was completely unnecessary. If they had stuck to just what they had developed and worried less about making Captain Underpants look absurd, the film would have been even stronger.
Overall, my thoughts on this film are quite brief (pardon the pun). There is a section of the audience that under no circumstances would be caught at any showing of Captain Underpants. However, if you are a parent and your child is between the 2nd and 5th grade, then this is your movie. Don’t confuse this release as high art. Dreamworks signed on for this project knowing full well that Pilkey had a core audience of readers that would most certainly pay to see this film. This weekend it didn’t stand a chance against Wonder Woman but did just enough to most certainly justify a sequel and that’s not a bad thing at all.