Friday, June 2, 2017

'Captain Underpants': For Truth, Justice and All Things Pre-Shrunk and Cottony

Harold (Thomas Middleditch), George (Kevin Hart) and Captain Underpants (Ed Helms). (DreamWorks)

MOVIE REVIEW

When Blue Sky Studio first bravely tackled The Peanuts Movie, fans everywhere shook in their boots worrying that the new movie would ruin Charles Schulz’s legacy. While Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants doesn’t share the same legacy as Peanuts, it would be understandable if Pilkey’s fan were nervous about how DreamWorks would present the whitey tighty superhero. However, in both cases, the movies not only captured the spirit and humor of the original sources, they actually honored the material. For real.

Like just about every other parent out there, I have had to endure readings of the many adventures of Mr. Underpants. With the reading of the first book, I was skeptical, but came to appreciate the silly humor of the story. However, I must say that I found a lot of the potty humor found within the pages of the numerous books that came after it, to be distasteful. But for kids, potty humor is comedy gold. I never understand when other parents who would say things like, “Well, at least your boys are reading.”

Now much older, my two boys (now young men) joined me for the press screening of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, and like myself, enjoyed every minute of it. For a story based on bathroom humor, I was surprised how very little was actually presented in the movie. Yes, the villain of the story is Professor Poopypants (which got loads of laughter from the kids in the audience) but believe it or not, the film actually look the high road. Well, maybe just the middle of the road, but still, the creators of this cartoon relied on more than just the cheap shots and created one funny movie.


DreamWorks' "Captain Undpants"
(DreamWorks)
One thing that helps this silly story is that it is told from the point of view of two kids and in exactly the way that real kids would tell it. George and Harold are best friends who spend all their free time in their treehouse creating their own brand of comic books starring their made up superhero, Captain Underpants. Since they thought most comic book heroes look like they fight crime in their underwear, why not make one who fights crime literally in his underwear?

At school though, they are miserable. Their principle, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), is the meanest principle there is making everyone’s life at school unbearable. Fortunately, these two boys unselfishly take it upon themselves to make school life more fun for all the kids. George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch, that annoying guy featured in the current Verizon commercials) are frequently sent to Principle Krupp’s office. He wants to punish these two so bad, but he never has any real solid proof that the many distracting and destructive pranks performed at the school are being caused by the pair. Until now. When Krupp threatens to place the two boys in separate classes George panics and reacts in an unusual way accidentally hypnotizing the principal to believe that he is their favorite hero in the flesh…and stretchy, cotton fabric.

Captain Underpants movie review
Professor Poppypants (DreamWorks)
Meanwhile, the evil Professor Poppypants (Nick Kroll), tired of people making fun of his name, arrives at the school wanting to rid the people of the world of their senses of humor. Jordan Peele plays George and Harold’s annoying classmate, Melvin (who fittingly doesn’t have a sense of humor) and Kristen Schaal plays the school’s lunch lady and possible love interest to Mr. Krupp.

While the entire Captain Underpants movie is silly, it even manages to eke out a little heart to the story as well. It’s not much and if you blink, you might miss it, but it might be just enough to make parents feel a little better about bringing their kids to this flick. No big morals or lessons to be learned in this show. Just a lot of harmless, silly comedy.

If the kids who attended the screening with me are any indication, get ready for a few sequels to come down the road. You too, will probably find yourself chuckling along as well. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me.

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