Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review: "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" (2017)

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Director: David Soren
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Two best friends hypnotize their mean principal into thinking he is Captain Underpants, a fictional superhero of their creation.

"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is a DreamWorks animated feature directed by David Soren, who is known for directing the film "Turbo." It is written by Nicholas Stoller, who has worked on other kids movies like "Storks" and "The Muppets." This film is based on the children's novel series by Dav Pilkey. It stars the voice talents of Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch as best friends and comic book writers George and Harold. These two besties are a couple of pranksters who draw the ire of their rather cruel principal Mr. Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms. When Mr. Krupp threatens to destroy the friendship of the two boys, they use their cereal box prize, a hypno-ring, to hypnotize their principal into thinking he is the comic book hero they created named Captain Underpants. Also in the film are Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal, and Nick Kroll as the evil Professor Poopypants.

When we first heard about this movie, we really didn't know what to think about it. We aren't familiar with the source material since we aren't five years old and don't have kids of our own, and with a name like "Captain Underpants," we certainly entered cautiously and feared the worst. We must say we are pleasantly surprised at this movie. It is actually quite funny, and not just for the youngins! It just goes to show you can't judge a movie by its title...or maybe you can! Most of the jokes here are based off of some variation of toilet humor, and that's exactly what you would and should expect from a feature film called "Captain Underpants." That being said, there is a level of self awareness to the material as it often recognizes that toilet humor is a low brow form of comedy. Still, there is a certain wit to it all. It has enough potty jokes to make and keep children entertained, and it still manages to maintain an extra level of cleverness so the adults in the room won't want to tear out their hair from all of the diarrhea-laced puns. Make no mistake, not all of the jokes land where they need to in order to be successful, but the vast majority of the comedy works well within the context of the picture, toilet humor or not.

Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch do a fine job in their roles despite being adults voicing characters who are children. Their voices seem to mesh really well together, and the way their lines are delivered certainly brings a childlike energy to their characters. Their vocal chemistry lends to the on-screen friendship between Harold and George, which is an excellent thing for kids to watch unfold. It lets them know, regardless of what class you're in in school, you can still be best friends, even if your horrible principal tries to tear you apart. And speaking of horrible principals, Ed Helms also does a fantastic job flipping back and forth between the angry and cruel Mr. Krupp and the fun-loving, boisterous, dimwitted Captain Underpants. Finally, we know Nick Kroll has a wonderful ability to do all sorts of voices. Though it is certainly over the top and a little expected, his role as Professor Poopypants is just zany enough to fit into the picture as the villain. While they don't get a lot to do, Jordan Peele as George and Harold's humorless student counterpart Melvin and Kristen Schaal as shy lunch lady Edith are also welcome additions to this voice cast.

One of the best things about "Captain Underpants" is its tremendous animation. The entire movie is made in a 3D animation style, but in between are little reenactments and vignettes that come alive in other ways. These include sock puppets, pop-up comic book frames, and other non-3D, more traditionally animated sequences. The use of so many different visual techniques really brings another level of uniqueness to this movie.

"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is a surprisingly fun time, and we smiled and laughed a lot while watching it. This is one kids will enjoy, and definitely has some stuff for the adults in the room as well.

My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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