Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, Perfect Score.
Tra la laaaa! I grew up reading Captain Underpants as a kid, and aspiring to be like George and Harold. This movie is the perfect sum of those books that I had to be dragged away from to sit down for my own birthday cake. No really, I was that big a fan. When I heard Dreamworks was making a movie based on it, I feared the ever shifting release date would make it a mess and in hindsight, I'm glad they didn’t try forcing any modern references, but stayed true to the material (99% of the time, but the heart was there). We open with George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) making the Captain Underpants origin story. To make a long story short, Principal Krupp (Ed Helms) rips up the comic and goes off on a rant at them. After that, he announces the mandatory inventions convention, and we get a real taste of his tyranny. At the invention convention, Melvin Sneedly (Jordan Peele) bores his peers with inventions that really aren’t that cool, and after Mr. Krupp falls asleep, George and Harold tamper with the turbo toilet, and what follows after they’re caught on camera doing it is Mr. Krupp separating the main leads by putting them in separate classes, and after some debate, they try to steal the evidence, only for them to come across their confiscated goods, including the hypno ring that fans of the books will recognize, but for those who don’t, George uses it to hypnotize Mr. Krupp into various animals before hypnotizing him into the amazing Captain Underpants (perfectly voiced by Ed Helms, even if I imagined the voice in a higher-pitch, but it was so fun, I forgive them), and what follows is a hilarious story that involves Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants (Nick Kroll) trying to eliminate laughter. The story is a perfect balance of nods to the original books, adherence to the spirit of said books, and a new story with familiar characters. Like the Peanuts Movie, they handle the source material with amazing respect, but this time, don’t force modern pop-songs into a 1950s/1960s setting, although in the fourth wall breaks where the ratings of Krupp/Underpants’ fart orchestra parody real life things, which give the adults a laugh, adds a layer of reliability for viewers, and just adds to the not-at-all-serious-tone. They also don’t waste any time, to the point I never checked my watch, a true accomplishment in the age of shrinking attention spans. You also may question a few things, but this requires a strong suspension of disbelief, and this film doesn’t take itself seriously at any point, which perfectly reflects the source material and gives us a fun movie for kids and adults (at least those who grew up with the books, like me and the friends I saw this with). George and Harold were always reliable as kids who just wanted to have fun, and they perfectly capture that spirit and develop them as rebellious youngsters who seek to fight against “the man” through classic tropes like the treehouse and the mean authority figure. We learn enough about them to care about them, and they act as narrators, breaking the fourth wall throughout. Not only do they capture the spirit, they capture the visual aesthetic of the book covers beautifully, staying true to the 2D visuals in 3D CGI, while also having fun with sock puppets and traditionally animated sequences featuring the best of Treehouse Comix Inc. Everything there adds to the story, the not-so-serious tone, and is just plain fun with a message about having a good laugh at yourself and others. To add to the fun is appropriate pop songs that fit the scenes perfectly. Also, Theodore Shapiro did a soundtrack. Overall, Captain Underpants is a hilarious family movie with enough toilet humor for the kids and the adults who read the original books to feel “this is so right.” And it stays funny throughout, even when serious things happen. Overall, Captain Underpants is also the feel-good movie of the summer. It’s not some super-deep introspection like what Disney and/or Pixar would do, it’s not some dumb animated flick for the kids, it’s the perfect love letter to the books I grew up enjoying, and definitely not your typical superhero movie in this age of superhero movies. Here we go again (I hope to say at the start of the sequel).