Having had no knowledge of the source material (which is almost becoming my gimmick lately), I have to say that I had an absolute blast with the comically funny, irreverent and all-around charmer Captain Underpants which followed the heels of Wonder Woman in the same opening weekend and still managed to net a pretty impressive $23.5 million box office.
What starts out as just an ordinary day at school by two best friend-come pranksters, George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) turns to something much more troubling as the principal (Ed Helms) finally catches them in the act and decides to… put them in separate classes! As the boys get desperate to retain their friendship, George somehow hypnotizes Principal Krupp with a cheap hypno-ring and gets him to believe that he is Captain Underpants, a comic book superhero that the two boys have created. It’s a good thing too because Professor P (Nick Kroll) has emerged as the new science teacher and has a devious plan to rid the world of laughter.
This movie could have been done like a cheap little Dreamworks film with goofy action and special effects but it is a completely different unique and terrific experience. The filmmakers use several interesting techniques to make it stand out from entire sequences involving sock puppets, flip-charts to showcase action scenes that were “too intense” to make it into a kids movie and a number of fourth wall-breaking scenes including a particularly inspired one early in the movie when the main characters start to leave and the credits begin to roll.
The story of two friends being afraid of the separation leading to the breaking of their friendship forever rings true in many children’s hearts and we all have experienced the fear at one point or another. It doesn’t hurt that Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch inject a lot of fun into the parts that could have otherwise been pretty run-of-the-mill. Ed Helms has a blast as the evil principal and Captain Underpants, shifting between near-maniacal rage and empty-headed heroism. Nick Kroll also fits in as the perfect villain going so ridiculously over-the-top that it gives a sense of how incompetent Underpants is when he sees nothing inherently wrong with him. The reveal of Professor P’s full name could have also been a really cheap joke but it’s pulled off brilliantly and made me laugh a great deal.
If you’re looking for clever action-packed animation that the kids and the adults can equally enjoy, look no further than this recent offering from Dreamworks and enjoy. It’s terrific.
Less than * (Actively offensive to one’s intelligence)
* (Brutal; bottom-of-the-barrel)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)