Film Review: CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE (USA 2017) ***1/2

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captain underpantsTwo overly imaginative pranksters named George and Harold, hypnotize their principal into thinking he’s a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants.

Director: David Soren
Writers: Nicholas Stoller (screenplay), Dav Pilkey (based on the epic novels by)
Stars: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
once saw a skit of Superman and Batman at an unemployment office. Superman tells Batman that they will never get a job. Why Batman asks? Because no one would hire anyone who wears underpants over their clothes – was the answer. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS the animated movie takes the joke to another level. The hero only wears underpants!
This last collaboration between Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox (before Dreamworks moves with Universal) is fortunately a huge animated comic success. As the title of the film implies, the story involves lots of goofy absurdity and toilet jokes (there is even a symphony of body fluid noises performed on the school stage in the middle of the film), but who cares as CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS is a very funny movie, almost matching the best of the SHREK films. The comic song “I Love Saturdays” at the film’s stet sets up the mood of the film.

The film is based on the children’s novel series of the same name created in 1997 by Dav Pilkey, who sold the rights to Dreamworks in 2011. The plot follows two imaginative elementary school prankster students, George Beard and Harold Hutchins (Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) who hypnotize using a hypnotic ring from a cereal box, their mean-spirited principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), into thinking he is Captain Underpants, a hero in comic books George and Harold write together. Mr. Krupp runs all over the place trying to what he thinks he is doing, saving the world. But the story includes a villain, Professor Poopypants (Nikc Kroll) (looking like the child catcher in CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG), the new science teacher who wants to rid the wold of laughter. His assistant is one of George and Harold’s fellow students, a swatter and a rotter called Melvin (Jordan Peele) with an uncanny resemblance to minions in DESPICABLE ME. Yes, as in all animated films, the world needs to be saved – but always for a good cause – as the return of laughter in this story.

There is plenty of laughter in this film, thanks to the goofy antics of the animators, the smart script by Brit Nicholas Stoller and the comedic timing of director David Soren. Writer Stoller directed the very funny NEIGHBOURS, NEIGHBOURS II and FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL and Toronto-own Stoller had proven his animation mettle in TURBO (the animated on snails). Kevin Hart is funny voicing George but the surprise comes from Ed Helms who voices both the principal and Captain Underpants.

The animation is 3D computer animated, with the heads of the characters rounded, similar to THE PEANUTS MOVIE. The characters have a 3D rather than a two dimensional look.

Despite all the toilet humour, the film contains a decent message of genuinely doing good in the world.

There is a fine line between stupidity and goofiness. Animated films often have to tread this fine line between success and failure. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS succeeds in this respect while another cent animated feature THE LEGO BATMAN failed because it was too manic and incomprehensible. It should be a worthwhile wait for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE SECOND EPIC MOVIE

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDm_2m-Hg6c
 

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