For families with young children looking to spend some time together seeing a movie this weekend, the DreamWorks animated feature Captain Underpants will serve as an agreeable superhero alternative to the violent and intense Wonder Woman.
Captain Underpants is an adaptation of the popular children’s books of the same name by Dav Pilkey. When the author was growing up, he suffered from dyslexia and ADHD, and this led to behavioral problems in the classroom. Having invented the character Captain Underpants in second grade, Pilkey has enjoyed tremendous success retaining his inner child.
The humorous chapter books written for grade schoolers can effectively connect at a child’s level, and they offer plenty of enjoyment for adults, who can reminisce on classroom mischief of days gone by. The books pack plenty of clever gags and inventive features such as “flip-o-rama” animation, and the cinematic adaptation capably delivers Pilkey’s wit and charm.
In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, we are introduced to George and Harold, two best friends (featuring spirited voice work from Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, respectively) who love to pull pranks and goof around in class. The childhood antics will surely remind you of some good times in elementary school.
The two love to create comics together in their treehouse, and their favorite creation is “The Amazing Captain Underpants,” which they make copies of and distribute in their school. The only things blocking their mischief are old, dull teachers, and their loud, ill-tempered principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms).
When Mr. Krupp threatens to jeopardize their friendship by placing them in separate classes, they resort to desperate measures: hypnosis. Using the power of a 3D hypno-ring George found in a cereal box, they are able to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into thinking he is Captain Underpants working undercover as their school principal.
Things get out of control, and hilarity inevitably ensues. The movie takes plenty of inspiration from its source material, and offers an endless supply of inventive surprises including spontaneous musical numbers, animated comics, live action sock puppets, and even a utilization of Pilkey’s popular “flip-o-rama.”
DreamWorks took a cost-cutting measure with this project and chose to use an outside studio, Mikros Image, to provide animation work, and they did an exceptional job. Captain Underpants features a style similar to the excellent Peanuts Movie, which utilizes computer-generated animation while still exhibiting a two-dimensional style that is faithful to its source material.
Returning after DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, second-time director David Soren ups his game by delivering a delightful family flick that provides stunning animation, entertaining action, and fresh laughs. Kevin Hart contributes some of the best work in his acting career as part of a stellar voice cast that also includes Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, and Jordan Peele.
While the movie might skew toward younger children with a frenetic fast pace and loads of scatological potty humor, you should know what to expect from a title like Captain Underpants. However, with terrific animation and a myriad of innovative gags, the film is sure to satisfy parents as well.