20TH CENTURY FOX (2017)
Director: David Soren
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Erm…no…
The magnificently named Captain Underpants glides onto the big screen in nothing but a flowing cape and tighty-whities. What a hero, not a single speck of spandex in sight. Based on the children’s novels, Captain Underpants is very much a movie for your kids, but it’s still good fun for the adults too.
Shut your brains down and let the underpants consume you.
Fourth-graders George Beard (Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Middleditch) are the best of friends. They live next door to each other, hang out in the same treehouse, bonded over Uranus and between them have created their own comic series, Captain Underpants, via their self-made company Treehouse Comix Inc. Their days basically consist of pranking the school teachers and driving humourless Principal Krupp (Helms) crazy. Their worlds come crashing down when they are caught in the act tampering with school square Melvin Sneedly’s (Peele) curricular invention and face the ultimate punishment – being placed in separate classes. You bastard, Krupp.
In a last-ditch effort to prevent the heinous disconnection, George hypnotizes Krupp with a plastic Hypno Ring (from a cereal box, no less) and places him under their command. Their fun hits fever pitch when they command him to become Captain Underpants himself, which in turns leaves a trail of destruction through the town. Thankfully, all it takes is a splash of water to bring Krupp back and a click of the fingers to summon the Captain. The fun soon dissipates when shady science teacher Professor P (Kroll) is employed at the school and vows the rid the children of their laughter. They need a hero. Can Underpants save them? Will Krupp secure a date with cleaning lady Edith (Schaal)? Just what does the P. stand for in Professor P.? (Hint, it’s Poopypants).
Captain Underpants is a fun, frivolous animated movie that wears its flatulent heart on its sleeve. Beneath the frolics is a message on the importance of friendship and happiness which is constantly referred to during the movie, but it’s the gags where the movie attempts to shine. If you like fart jokes, sniggering at Uranus, and things that would make a seven-year-old crack up, then you’ll be in for a treat – or if you’re able to let your guard down and have some silly fun, you’ll also be fine. There’s fourth wall breaking and background funnies all the way through and when the besties want to roll credits, they roll at their request.
The voice acting of Hart and Middleditch is pitch-perfect, and that also applies across the board. There’s a decent glut of talent to be found here, including Jordan Peele, fresh off the success of Get Out . There’s some good comedic timing also, so when the jokes hit they feel just right. Another great aspect of Captain Underpants is its lack of contemporary references – there’s no constant referencing Snapchat, Twitter or anything that similar movies seem to feel the need to cram in. It’s quite refreshing to find a movie that sells the idea of kids hanging out in treehouses, creating comics and just generally enjoying being kids.
The animation is strong, and also combines 2D and some great sockpuppetry as well. There’s a different style to Dreamworks usual here, but it lends a decent comic book aesthetic to the movie. Adam Lambert, “Weird” Al Yankovic and Theodore Shapiro are just a few of the musicians to lend their flairs to an upbeat soundtrack.
The movie is overlong in the third act and could’ve done with having ten minutes or so shaved off to allow for a tighter, more engaging pace – obviously in an attempt to keep up with actual superhero movies. Some of the gags are weak and don’t hit like the rest, though many comedies suffer from the same issue.
Captain Underpants is a bit of childish fun for kids and adults alike, delivering more joy and a better villain than many MCU or DCEU movies manage (not sure if serious…). Good animation and good voice work make up for an overlong story and unchallenging narrative. Even if you haven’t got kids, give it a sneaky viewing for some fun and to marvel at Uranus.
September 28th 2017