Tra La La Land: “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” Is a Guaranteed Pantheon Film

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.

Somebody get this guy a stress ball jeez!

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…

Burn Notice: “Central Intelligence” Wastes the Next Big Comedy Duo’s Potential

All you need is a little Hart, a big Johnson… and a better movie.

This is one of the first comedies I’ve seen in a while where I was legitimately disappointed by the time the ending credits were rolling. I’ve always tempered my expectations with comedies and horror films – they’re the most fickle in terms of quality and I think the most subjective as well – but I genuinely expected Central Intelligence to be a solid flick.

Imagine my surprise when I’m artificially trying to meet my expectations by forcing myself to repeatedly laugh at shitty joke after shitty joke. I mean, on paper, Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson should be an unstoppable duo. While I’ve always been a little concerned with Hart’s turn from standup comedian to actor, I’m willing to concede his films are generally acceptable.

And yes, it is becoming increasingly clear that Kevin Hart is the homeless man’s version of Eddie Murphy; nothing he makes will be as good and as iconic as Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, or Norbit, but he’s still a genuinely funny dude. Pairing him with a popular and talented star like The Rock should be a surefire way to make comedy gold.

Besides, if Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell can make it, surely they can too? The answer is… NOPE! I guess not!

Part of the problem has to be how much was given away in the trailer. Seeing what I assume was a CGI version (or just a fat suit, I suppose) of a tubby The Rock was the highlight; people were laughing their asses off when the trailer would come up in previews. After prolonged exposure however, it’s not as funny. Not even close.

Speaking of trailers, they have a chronic problem nowadays where they give too much of the plot away, whether it’s Drive or Terminator: Genisys. Comedy trailers give away too much of the best jokes and horror trailers give away some of the creepiest moments (or some prime jump scares). Central Intelligence wouldn’t be much better if the trailers had been more ambiguous, but it certainly would have helped.

Look, there’s nothing deep about this. It is just a really underwhelming movie that feels like it has no soul. It’s worse than both Ride Along movies so that should speak volumes. I think you could argue it’s probably the most disappointing film of the summer.

You can try to turn your brain off but it isn’t going to help. It’s not one of those movies. It’s simply not enjoyable and that is so disappointing. I know this is in hindsight, but it is truly a troubling sign when people are funnier and more lively when they’re promoting a movie, than in the actual movie itself.

What makes it even sadder is that Central Intelligence isn’t bad enough to be funny in a “good god, this is terrible” kind of way. It’s just a middling action-comedy with two stars barely trying with an incompetent script. In the world of comedy/horror, middling is instant death. You either have to be good, or absolutely atrocious. You can’t tread water, or you’ll end up getting eaten. Maybe by a shark.

I mean, fuck – at least we knew before going into something like Independence Day: Resurgence that it would suck ass, you know?

Diamonds in the Rough: 10 TV Shows You Should See Right Now

Ten hidden gems in the vast world of television that you should see before something tragic happens to you. Hey, I’m just saying.

When I scroll through Netflix’s offerings, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed. It happens all the time, actually, and has gotten so bad I try to limit how much time I spend on the app (or website, if I’m on the computer).

It’s definitely a first-world problem, this anxiety of having too many options, and in the category of digital entertainment, no less. But I’m not here to place some kind of ethical value on our society’s luxuries, or prance around on a high horse. In fact, I’m here to exacerbate the situation.

You see, I know you feel the same way I do. I would even go as far as to say it’s worse for you, because I actually don’t watch any TV at all in the traditional sense. So if you own a TV, and if you have cable or satellite or whatever the kids call it these days, you must be bombarded all the time with ads, suggestions, and recommendations.

Unfortunately for you – and perhaps for me – it’s about to happen again. But before you click the top right corner and run screaming for the hills, these ten TV shows are quality creations that don’t get the attention they deserve.

Just stay by my side; I’ve been good to you so far, haven’t I?

THE BRITISH

Say what you will about the British, what with their snobby attitudes and raised pinkies, but they know how to make some damn good TV series. In honor of our superior brothers and sisters, the first five shows hail from the other side of the globe.

Quick note: some of these British shows are “diamonds in the rough” only to a reading audience that is primarily American – or you, statistically speaking.

Blackadder (1983 – 1989)

Before Rowan Atkinson was Mr. Bean, and before Hugh Laurie was House, they starred on a BBC period sitcom that was collectively called Blackadder. The four seasons/series were all set in a different historical time period, with Atkinson, Laurie, and others like Stephen Fry reprising their same general roles.

This is a sharply sarcastic comedy, with Atkinson portraying Blackadder, a scheming and conniving individual who is the very definition of an anti-hero. It’s truly a shock seeing the contrast between Blackadder and Mr. Bean.

Hugh Laurie is a pleasant shock too, since most people know him from the American show House, and not his previous comedic endeavors (the legendary Stephen Fry and Laurie were actually something of a comedy duo back in the day – the more you know).

It’s really funny and has aged well, like a fine wine or Asian women. Wait what!?!?

Black Mirror (2011 – present)

Technology and humankind are bound together for better or for worse. Black Mirror explores the “worse” part and does it in some of the most twisted ways imaginable. It’s an anthology, which means each episode features different actors, actresses, and stories.

Highlights include the Prime Minister fucking a pig, a special “grain” or implant that records everything you see in HD, and a robotic Domhnall Gleeson.

Just be warned, series creator Charlie Booker is infamous for his harsh and often grotesque satirical views. In Black Mirror, he has complete freedom to explore those views and this isn’t for the faint of heart. It is also fairly depressing, so again: pace yourself.

Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace (2004)

Darkplace is a perfect horror parody of what low-budget television was like in the 1980s. The acting is deliberately terrible, with the cardboard of the bunch being Richard Ayoade as Dean Learner, Garth Marenghi’s publisher, who in turn portrays Thornton Reed on Darkplace.

The six episodes are shown as kind of a documentary reflecting on Darkplace‘s cultural impact, with each episode starting with an inadvertently funny intro by Garth Marenghi (Matthew Holness), an “author, dream weaver, visionary, plus actor.” His role in Darkplace is Dr. Rick Dagless, who has a tendency to fire a Magnum revolver at (in)appropriate targets.

But the funniest character might be Todd Rivers (Matt Berry), an actor who portrays Dr. Lucien Sanchez. Berry/Rivers delivers his lines in an inexplicably deep voice and tends to fail at lip-synching all the time.

Look, that was a terrible explanation. I guess I’m still in a daze over how cheesy this show is.

Bonus: all episodes are on YouTube!

Luther (2010 – 2013, 2015?)

Inspired by the skills of Sherlock Holmes and the inverted detective format (shows the crime actually happening) of Columbo, Luther is a dark and gritty interpretation of London crime and the people with the thankless task of stopping that crime. The excellent Idris Elba portrays the titular detective and received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations every year.

Even better, the opening credits are dope.

Peep Show (2003 – present)

This cult hit features comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb and uses a cool gimmick where every camera shot is a point of view angle (POV) from a character, even if that character has no lines and no relevance to the show’s larger picture in any way, shape, or form. That means a common theme will be a main character walking down the street and the audience getting a view via a random pedestrian passing by.

But aside from interesting cinematography, Peep Show is your typically sharp and witty British comedy. The chemistry between Mitchell and Webb is excellent and I personally like how Webb’s character is a total idiot, while Mitchell’s character is much more uptight and paranoid about the silliest things.

It’s a tradition for them, I suppose, since that’s the general gist of their roles in That Mitchell and Webb Look, a sketch comedy series that is also worth a… look.

 

THE AMERICANS

Say what you will about the Americans, what with their greasy attitudes and fat thumbs jammed up their asses, but they know how to make a lot of TV shows. In honor of, um, ourselves, the last five shows hail from pretty much here. Right here. Or there. Somewhere!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013 – present)

Our country’s current relationship with the police is dubious at best, so it may come as a surprise that a comedy(!) about cops is more than just something to fill a time slot for Fox. With an excellent ensemble cast rivaling historically consistent comedies like Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine regularly delivers.

It isn’t the most sophisticated comedy… which is to be expected since Andy Samberg is involved. But have no fear: the fictional NYPD 99th Precinct is ready to make you laugh with humor that stems from your typical banter to physical acts of incompetence.

Also, this show is more realistic than you might think, which makes sense (that’s what I read somewhere, although I can’t find the source now). Imagine trying to work in an environment like Criminal Minds. Gross.

With two Golden Globes under its belt already, I think Brooklyn Nine-Nine is here to stay. You know, as long as Fox doesn’t fuck up like they did with Arrested Development and Firefly.

Bob’s Burgers (2011- present)

Speaking of Fox, there’s an animated show out there that’s a little weird and a little quirky, and that show is Bob’s Burgers, which many people know about because H. Jon Benjamin voices Bob and he also happens to voice Sterling Archer from Archer.

If you’re an oddball, you’ll like it. I like to think of it as one of those shows where you watch an episode and you think nothing happened, but then you think about it and there was a plot after all.

To be honest, an appropriate comparison might be a show like King of the Hill or even Louie. It’s a comedy, but sometimes it’s about that daily grind more than trying to make you bust a nut laughing.

Portlandia (2011 – present)

Speaking of weird and quirky, there’s a show on IFC that takes Portland, Oregon and really brings out the city’s, um, unique qualities. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein star in what basically amounts to sketches, although some episodes do carry an actual arc.

Look, this is definitely a polarizing show that ventures dangerously close to hipster territory. I’m a huge weirdo, so obviously I’m a fan, although that’s not an excuse for you to skip this secretly awesome spectacle.

At the very least, check out the show’s opening credits which features “Feel It All Around” by Washed Out.

So choice.

Real Husbands of Hollywood (2013 – present)

Yes, I said it. Real Husbands of Hollywood is a seriously underrated reality TV spoof starring Kevin Hart, Nick Cannon, Nelly, and other BET-appropriate celebrities. The best part about this show is probably the benefit of experiencing Kevin Hart’s frantic energy in short doses, as opposed to a full feature film.

I hate reality TV just as much as the next person, which is why this spoof is so funny. They absolutely nail it and a continuous feed of celebrity cameos makes it that much more awesome.

The Americans (2013 – present)

I swear this isn’t hyperbole: The Americans, as of the first three seasons, is a show with just as much depth and character as the first three seasons of The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. I mean it completely and I think FX has something truly special here.

Just like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Americans seems like a show that’s just there to take up space and time. Call it an error in marketing or blame the general public for being so focused on shows with less substance like American Horror Story, but it’s a damn shame that this intriguing and thrilling drama about Soviet spies living in America has gone unnoticed for so long.

It might end up receiving belated accolades like The Wire (which I haven’t seen yet, but will eventually).

The real meat of the show comes not from the action, but from the relationship between Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys), who are highly trained Soviet spies pretending to be Americans. They not only need to hide their true intentions from the Americans, but from their own two kids as well.

That’s why I love the comparison with The Sopranos. They are both about people doing illegal things, but there’s an incredibly strong focus on family dynamics as well. The angst between the couple/partners is often tangible, as they try to come to terms with their initially artificial relationship, their training, and their actions in enemy territory.

Perhaps the most important distinction is the humanization provided by The Americans. It gives us the other side of the story and shows us the Soviets were people too; they were just as passionate about their cause as the Americans felt about their own cause.

While neither side was perfect, I think we have to admit the US did some pretty unseemly things during the Cold War, such as orchestrating coups d’état against democratically elected governments in Central/South America – perfect material for The Americans.

To sum it up: great acting, great directing, an unflinching resolve to show some disturbing things because those things definitely happened to real people at some point in history, and a commitment to a huge number of wigs. What a show.

Open Letter to Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart has been on fire lately. Maybe that’s not such a good thing.

Dear Kevin Hart,

I’ve seen a lot of standup comedians do their thing: Eddie Murphy, Louis CK, Jim Gaffigan, Marc Maron, George Carlin, Russell Peters, Dave Chappelle – you name it.

Many of them found success and branched out – diversified, so to speak. Louis CK has a TV show. So does Marc Maron.

Eddie Murphy decided to lose his sense of humor.

You get the idea.

Kevin, let me say this with my chest: I believe you are spreading yourself too thin lately. I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Maybe you’re just trying to make the most of your success before your streak inevitably ends (this is not an insult; it happens to everyone). Maybe you’re thinking about how hard you worked to get here and how your drive is finally paying off.

Remember back in the day, when you were doing stuff like showing up on Undeclared?

That was unexpected for me because I watched your standup for years and saw Undeclared only a few months ago after bulldozing through Freaks and Geeks. It was pretty astonishing to see you over a decade ago (you looked even younger then, somehow), making your way into the industry.

But look, I saw your movie Let Me Explain and I want you to explain how it ever got made. It hardly made me laugh, Kevin! I get I’m just one person and I’m sure others really enjoyed it, although 6.5/10 might indicate otherwise. I also recognize how hard it is to come up with new material, because doesn’t it often seem like the first few successes we have are the best? It takes hard work to come up with funny stuff consistently.

I recognize that. I really do.

On the other hand, I expected more from you. I had high expectations – because you earned it. You know you’re doing something right when people just assume your work will be awesome. That’s why we get surprised when guys like Michael Jordan miss clutch shots or when good directors make bad movies. That mindset applies to you too. You worked hard to get there. Don’t squander that privilege.

Here’s what you’re doing right: Real Husbands of Hollywood. I love it and I love how it parodies “real” reality shows. That shit is annoying, but you make me glad they exist just so Real Husbands could come into existence. Now that is a show you should focus on, because it’s worth the attention.

Lay off the movies for a while. We all know who you are, Kevin Hart. You don’t have to try to get our attention anymore. Just relax a little and focus on the important stuff, namely the fact that you’re a comedian and comedians generally tend to do standup. Funny standup.

Quantity has its perks, but quality has the final word. Get back to quality – you have that luxury now.

From,

Barrett (and other comedy lovers)