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‘Captain Underpants’ Is A Mighty Tighty Whitey Delight (Movie Review)

Huzzah or should I say tra la laaa! for another solid superhero movie this month. I have no familiarity with the Captain Underpants children’s book series, but I’m all for a film that can turn juvenile humor into an enjoyable, colorful and clever animated comedy about friendship and being yourself. That’s about as deep as it gets and while this latest DreamWorks Animation film is more expressly for kids than adults (opposed to adult-themed laughs in a kids movie), there is a rich amount of energy that makes Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie fun for all ages.

As mentioned, the film is based on the wildly popular children’s novel series by Dav Pilkey, which began 20 years ago and led to 12 books overall, along with several spin-offs. The most I knew about these books was the presence of a portly man sporting a red curtain for a cape and wearing nothing but white underpants. To my surprise, this creation comes from the minds of the film’s lead characters George and Harold (voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch). The two are a pair of grade school pranksters who constantly defy their interminably cranky Principal Krupp (Ed Helms). In an attempt to stop Mr. Krupp from separating these best friends, George and Harold manage to hypnotize their principal into thinking he’s their comic book creation, Captain Underpants.

Under the direction of David Soren (Turbo, a film I have nothing but disdain for) and with a script by Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors, The Muppets), it would seem everything was handled just right to make this superhero character not only tolerable but an enjoyable presence throughout. It’s an 89-minute movie, and the film does proper work to set up the character, while not overwhelming the audience with him. Once present though, Helms’ voice finds the perfect way to embody a fountain of optimism housed inside a clumsy body.

While Captain Underpants only has so many ideas for the hero to work with, in addition to the hypnosis effect which can be activated snapping one’s fingers and deactivated by splashing Krupp with water, there is more to explore. The film has a lively visual style that comes from having less of a budget to work with. Using one of the smaller DreamWorks Animation divisions, Captain Underpants shares a similar look to The Peanuts Movie, but also incorporates gags involving hand-drawn animation and live-action sock puppets. Having George and Harold narrate and occasionally pause the movie to discuss things that were too much for the budget gives the film a different advantage. By not over-relying on large-scale set pieces the film misses having that inverse effect it has on other DreamWorks Animation comedies, such as the recent Boss Baby.

It’s also just colorful and goofy. Certain parents who are incapable of having fun with their young children turned the book series into something of a controversial topic given the nature of the humor and by taking the perspective of these books to be anti-establishment.  This film, from all I can tell, is a faithful adaptation of the series in a way that will no doubt keep those same parents from enjoying what’s really at play here. Yes, Captain Underpants gets plenty of mileage out of jokes fit for grade schoolers (the film’s villain is Professor Poopypants, voiced by Nick Kroll). However, there is also a firm stance on promoting a positive school experience by having some subtle takes on where things are currently going on.

This delves down a different rabbit hole though, as Captain Underpants is ultimately trying to engage its audience through an imaginative story about two friends that want to have fun. The film has a style that feels a lot like creative individuals describing something absurdly fun and bringing it to life. A game voice cast happily embraces the ridiculousness of said story and bringing out the kids within them. There is a lot of (literal) potty humor to be found, which may stop this film from being taken more seriously in the long run, but as a quick-paced animated feature full of colors and a surprising amount of wit, Captain Underpants keeps its head above its waste band. And having “Weird Al” Yankovic provide the theme song is a great way to top it all off.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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