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  • Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie | Review

    By | June 2, 2017


    Director: David Soren

    Writers: Nicholas Stoller, Dav Pilkey, David Soren

    Starring: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal

    If you’re under the age of 12 and/or potty jokes are your cup of tea, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re really going to enjoy Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Otherwise, this is a film with some entertaining bits that’s ultimately pretty forgettable. Of course, if you’re a parent of young kids, then it’s also 90 minutes of trouble free babysitting that the kids will likely love.

    The film, based on the popular children’s book series by Dav Pilkev, chronicles the friendship of fourth-graders Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) and George Beard (Kevin Hart), who in addition to writing and drawing their own comic books are such accomplished pranksters that they find themselves spending huge chunks of their time in the office of Principal Krupp (Ed Helms), who they also love to prank.

    Principal Krupp, one of only two or three adult characters who figure into the film, is an emotionally stunted administrator and every child’s nightmare, the kind of principal who proudly eliminates the school’s art funding and uses the money to turn his office into an inescapable panic room. He’s determined to catch the two friends in the act of committing one of the pranks he knows they’re responsible for and he also loves to discourage their creative impulses, confiscating every one of their self-penned comic books he can get his hands on.

    After Krupp decides to make his life easier by splitting the two boys into different classes, they embark on a desperate attempt to avoid that disturbing fate. Aided by a hypnotizing ring taken from a box of cereal, the boys manage to hypnotize Krupp into believing that he’s Captain Underpants, the bald, dimwitted, underwear and cape sporting hero of their comic books. The opposite of Krupp, Captain Underpants is an eternally optimistic do-gooder. He’s also a true believer in his (non-existent) superpowers, which is the key to a lot of the humor of the film. The initial action sequence after his transformation is quick-paced, physical cartoon comedy at its best.

    The film begins to drag a bit after the introduction of the mandatory evil villain, mad scientist Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), whose goal is to rid the world of laughter and who dominates the film’s second half. Where the film truly shines is in the comedic banter and camaraderie between Middleditch’s Hutchins and Hart’s Beard, who writer Nicholas Stoller gifts with some truly witty dialogue, and in the action sequences featuring Captain Underpants bumbling and stumbling around, barely avoiding one disaster after another while loudly yelling “TRA-LA-LA!”

    Unlike a lot of top-tier children’s films being made by Pixar, Dreamworks has seemingly made a movie purely intended for a pre-teen audience, lacking in the sophisticated messages that can be found in films such as Home or Inside Out. There is a clear message about the importance of true friendship and there are occasional societal critiques, such as lamenting the lack of priority shown to education funding by government. But for the most part this is a 90 minute exercise in simply allowing kids to laugh at fart jokes and to unapologetically delight in a villain named Poopypants. And for that I’ll give them props (even if it means I don’t particularly enjoy the film myself).

    Rating: 7/10

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