Review: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is Nickelodeon Style Fun
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is based on a series of popular children novels written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey. While I have never read any of these books, I always knew about them and have friends with children who absolutely adore the stories. Just like the books themselves, the film follows Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) as they use their imagination to create a superhero known as Captain Underpants. Harold and George love to have fun and pull pranks while at school. The school’s principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is not amused by their antics and threatens their best friendship by putting them into separate classrooms. Harold and George don’t want anyone hindering their relationship so they decide to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and force him to become Captain Underpants. Little do they know that the new science teacher is working on a plan to rid the world of laughter.
It is extremely rare nowadays to walk into a theater without having some sort of expectation whether its high or low or indifferent but with Captain Underpants I really didn’t have any expectations whatsoever. I didn’t even watch the film’s trailer and only saw glimpes of various television spots prior to seeing the film at a screening. Captain Underpants is a film that is geared towards young children as you may have guessed from the title. I definitely believe that children between the ages of five and ten will more than likely get the biggest kick out of this film.
As for the adults, I think it will be a case of love it or hate it. The film’s humor is very in your face and pretty much non-stop from start to finish. I would even argue that the film is pretty much relentless. I felt like every single moment of this film was filled with energy. It felt like watching a 89 minute film where everyone involved was on a sugar high and decided to make a movie. I do think there are enough “inside” jokes that should appeal to adults as long as you don’t find what is happening on-screen to be irritating which may be a bit of a challenge to some older viewers.
Oddly enough, most of the best and adult themed jokes come from the villain Mr. Poopypants who is voiced by Nick Kroll. Yes, you read that right, there is a character named Mr. Poopypants but is that really that surprising considering the fact that the title is Captain Underpants? Yea, I didn’t think so. I found Mr. Poopypants jokes about things like education to be very comedic because of how true they were. It’s so strange thinking about how Nick Kroll voiced a douche in the R-rated Sausage Party and then went on to play a singing pig in the family friendly film, SING. Now, he voices a mad science teacher known as Mr. Poppypants. I find all that so amusing as well as fascinating.
While Captain Underpants may not work for everyone, there is a ton to admire about this film. As someone who adores animation, I love that the film features multiple kinds of animation including multiple scenes of hand drawn animation. I feel hand drawn animation has become a lost art form at this point. It’s nice to see it as part of this film and I think it really adds to the story being told. There is one particular scene where George and Harold stop the film and tell the audience that they don’t have a big enough budget to show what happens next. As a result, they have to draw what happens as part of a flip book. I thought this was so clever and really played into the concept that George and Harold have vivid imaginations.
Speaking of imagination, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to watch a film that inspires children to use their imagination. I feel like Disney films do that but so rarely do other studios embrace that idea. Captain Underpants celebrates creativity and you can tell not only by the characters that George and Harold create in their comic books but also how director David Soren brings all the characters in the film to life. The film in a lot of ways reminded me of the 90s era of animated television shows. A lot of the classic Nickelodeon series such as Catdog and Hey Arnold as well as the randomness that was found in Animaniacs. It feels like something you don’t see every day and that is great. I think a lot of these modern day animated films are missing that sort of blend of randomness but also heart.
While I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it took a little while before the film won me over, I do think that because the film is relentless, I couldn’t help but break down and just enjoy it for what it was. It is so over the top and full of energy that you can’t help but smile and enjoy the ride. It’s not going to win any awards for being the most amazing Animated film of the year but it does embrace important themes such as friendship and more importantly, celebrates imagination. These themes are important and in a lot of ways are the glue that holds this film together.
All in all, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie celebrates friendship, creativity, animation, and potty humor. It may not be for everyone but I do believe the vast majority of children and adults will appreciate the fact that the film knows what it is and runs with it. I totally admire what David Soren did with Dav Pilkey’s source material and think he made this film something that will stand out from other animated family films. I loved the homages to sock pockets as well as hand drawn animation. I like the voice-cast and felt like everyone involved was just having a blast. Captain Underpants isn’t the best animated film of the year but it is still a fun time at the movies and worth the price of admission.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel’s rating for Captain Underpants is a 7 out of 10.