It may only be June, but I’m calling it: this movie will be inducted into my 2017 Movie Power Rankings Pantheon.
This is the first animated film I’ve seen in recent memory where it’s purely for kids, mature adults be darned. This is nothing like the multilayered Inside Out or Zootopia, or really most animated films that try to juggle the responsibility of entertaining kids while producing some kind of “moral of the story” that satisfies the parents.
Here, the entire premise revolves around two best friends named George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and their cranky principal (Ed Helms) who accidentally gets hypnotized into believing he’s Captain Underpants, a fictional comic book hero created by the two mischievous pranksters.
Of course, Captain Underpants eventually becomes a real superhero thanks to some radioactive school lunch leftovers, which culminates in an expected boss battle between a disgruntled science teacher named Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) and the #1 fan of 100% cotton underwear. All in all, it’s about as straightforward of a plot as you can get.
I figure it’s worth pointing out that fans of the original “novel” series by Dav Pilkey will find this film to be a mostly spot-on replica of what would happen if those novels were turned into a movie. People who are just jumping into this blind may find the comedy to be absolutely primitive and juvenile – just a hectic compilation of slapstick, literal toilet humor, and over-the-top zany shenanigans.
Both groups are correct to be honest, but let me tell you something: if you can’t laugh at most of the jokes in this movie, you should lighten up before you end up like Principal Krupp! And speaking of the principal, one thing I actually found quite surprising was how funny they were able to make this tremendous asshat.
You have to understand, this man is pretty much a kid’s definition of evil – I wouldn’t be surprised if Principal Krupp was the son of Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. That’s the kind of heinous monster poor George and Harold are up against for a good portion of time in the beginning of the film. But the way he expresses that evil is pure comedy, from the faces he makes when he’s furious, to the bizarrely staccato way he smiles when he knows he’s got dirt on George and Harold.
Although I can’t say I laughed at every joke, or found the movie completely engaging from beginning to end, I was blessed to get exactly what I expected (and a bit more than that to boot). I was a big fan of the voice acting – I know some people were distracted by the fact that the kids weren’t voiced by actual kids – but Kevin Hart in particular put in some solid work.
I did think the real standout was Ed Helms though, for his tremendous work as both the evil (but secretly sad) principal AND the dumb, friendly, overly enthusiastic Captain Underpants. Shoot, I might argue his voice work was comparable to Scarlett Johansson in Her. Does his Oscars campaign start now?
Just kidding, sheesh.
In terms of the animation, I enjoyed how clean and crisp it was. I also found it oddly adorable, which gave the whole film a really comforting vibe even during the times when the audience watched two little kids almost get permanent psychological trauma from their tenacious principal hell-bent on separating them forever.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is truly epic indeed and I can wholeheartedly say I’m looking forward to my newest favorite film franchise (fingers crossed). It appeals to every demographic possible in my opinion and anyone who doesn’t like this movie is probably a schmuck, a blockhead, a blowhard, a jerk, a knucklehead, a gabagool, a twerp, a sap, a stooge, or a professional critic who doesn’t know how to enjoy life.
There’s nothing wrong with silly and immature humor if it’s done well and it’s definitely done pretty darn well here. I’ve always loved Captain Underpants even though I forgot about that love as I got older, but this movie has brought back the passion I might have assumed was gone forever. Now I yell his catchphrase everywhere I go and nobody is safe from my impression. Not my parents, not my girlfriend, and certainly not any of my coworkers.
Shoot, I went to a prostate cancer seminar at the Chicago Botanic Garden with my parents recently and I got so bored I ended up drawing my own little comic sequence involving my favorite underwear superhero. Even my dad cracked a smile when he saw it and he’s a Korean dad with the personality of a Terminator.
I don’t think it’s even a question that this is my favorite superhero movie in a while and I would half-jokingly argue this is better than anything in DC’s current cinematic universe, although I haven’t seen Wonder Woman as of the end of this sentence…