Ambitious title. Not only is it sequel-setting, but its also epic?
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017) is a Dreamworks animated comedy directed by David Soren. Based on the children’s book series (which I am youthfully familiar with), it stars Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as George and Harold, two imaginative pranksters at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School who are constantly trying to create excitement amongst their prison-like confines. However, after they hypnotise their Principal Krupp (Ed Helms) and convince him he’s their homemade superhero Captain Underpants, they must thwart the evil plan of new science teacher Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll).
With a character literally named ‘Poopypants’, you would expect this to be a film that indulges in unfunny, immature forms of comedy. And you’d be right. But get this: the film knows this. Its distinctly self-aware of its position as a light-hearted fare with easy-comedy that skews young, and so tries to be the best damn movie of that type it can be. There’s both a confidence and awareness that makes the film come off as earnest and likeable at the same time of being crass. It does skew young – something that should be kept in mind – but it is still a funny and wildly entertaining joy ride that understands the joys of being a kid.
The animation is also surprisingly impressive considering the limited $38 million budget. Its crisp and clean, and mimics the style of the original books incredibly well. The character designs are also very expressive and have the comedic movements of a great Looney Tunes cartoon. It does however have a bout of modern influences and references that don’t quite fit. The thinking of studio executives trying to appeal to ‘today’s kids’ is a little too apparent at times, which not only feels cynical but also weakens the longevity of the movie.
The performances are also excellent. Hart and Middleditch capture the youthful energy and madcap imagination of George and Harold perfectly, and no joke is too ridiculous or bizarre to deliver without the most amount of gusto possible. Ed Helms is also great as Principal Krupp/ Captain Underpants and brings both hilariously evil passion and oblivious joy to the role. In contrast Nick Kroll’s turn as the villainous Poopypants is fine, but pales in comparison to the passion of his co-stars.
There isn’t much more to say about Captain Underpants. Its a fun diversion that knows exactly what it is, and does it well. While at times it feels a little too ‘kids like this, right?’ but for the most part its amusing, well-animated and boast some great voice performances. Epic? No. First in a franchise? Hopefully.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended