Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

| September 17, 2017

Harold (Thomas Middleditch; Silicon Valley) and George (Kevin Hart; Ride Along) have been best friends since bonding over the hilariously named Uranus in kindergarten.  Doing whatever it takes to survive their soul crushing elementary school, Harold and George play pranks, torment their principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms; The Daily Show), and spend hours upon hours working on their comic books.  The comic their most proud of is a series of superhero adventures starring the amazing Captain Underpants, who’s awesome and only wears a cape and tighty whiteys.  When faced with the possibility of being in separate classrooms, Harold and George make the desperate decision to try to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and when it miraculously works, they inadvertently turn the overweight tyrant into the living embodiment of Captain Underpants.

Not being familiar with the books this is based on, I had no idea what to expect.  The trailers looked funny and I’m a fan of the voice cast, which also includes Nick Kroll (The League) as the evil supervillain science teacher Professor Poopypants.  It’s just hard to tell if an animated film is going to contain enough for an adult audience to enjoy just from watching a trailer, and Dreamworks films recently have been tailored more for children.

I had a great time with this.  The movie has a lot of fun meta elements where the kids seem to be aware they’re in a movie, and that raises some interesting questions about what’s actually happening vs. what is only going on in their collective imagination, but the film also feels grounded in its own rules.  Before the hypnosis and Krupp’s transformation into Captain Underpants, it’s established that he has confiscated and possibly read various issues of the boys’ superhero comics so when he’s told to become Captain Underpants, he doesn’t have to magically know what Captain Underpants would act like.  I appreciate not having to make that leap with my own head canon.  Other choices are weirder like the fact that Captain Underpants has the ability of infinite underpants, meaning whenever he takes off his tighty whiteys to fling at a villain, he has another pair to cover himself, and apparently an infinite supply beneath that pair.

I really enjoyed Nick Kroll as the villain set on destroying laughter in the world because he was tired of people laughing at his name.  Kroll always brings a great energy to anything he works on and plays bad guys particularly well, even if it’s just his voice creating the character.  His comedic timing is the best in the film and the script does a good job of giving him a credible motivation, though it’s unclear why he wants to be a science teacher.  Maybe to further examine children’s brains and try to figure out how to stamp out laughter, but it’s unclear.  It is really funny to me that he makes no attempt to hide his evil plan and is constantly talking about what he wants to do in hypothetical terms.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD from 20th Century Fox.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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