*** ½ out of five stars
Dav Pilkey’s beloved children’s book series comes to the big screen in a hilarious, and yes, epic, animated adventure.
This film tells the story of two friends in fourth-grade. George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) are best known for pulling pranks and driving their teachers crazy. But their uptight principal Benny Krupp (Ed Helms) plots to weaken their friendship by placing them in separate classes. To prevent this, George hypnotizes Krupp into assuming the persona of Captain Underpants, a superhero he created with Harold. George and Harold have their hands full keeping Krupp and his disassociated secret identity out of trouble. Meanwhile, a mad scientist known as Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) becomes a teacher at the school and secretly plots a fiendish scheme with the help of wet blanket whiz kid Melvin Sneedley (Jordan Peele).
Not unlike the books it was based on, Captain Underpants is a celebration of immature, grade school humor yet never delves too deep into gross-out humor. George and Harold are the kind of kids that Bart Simpson would look up to, mischievous troublemakers but also fun-loving underdogs. Another source of delight is the contrast in personality between Krupp and Captain Underpants. Krupp is shown as an over-the-top control freak of an authority figure, whereas Captain Underpants is a happy-go-lucky do-gooder. The film’s villains and supporting characters are also highly entertaining. Perhaps most notable is Edith (Kristen Schaal), the shy lunch lady who has a crush on Krupp and seems to be the only one who brings out his human side prior to him becoming Captain Underpants.
The film’s visuals are eye-popping. The colorful CGI animation nicely captures the cartoony, round-looking character designs of Pilkey’s artwork and is reminiscent of Blue Sky’s The Peanuts Movie. There are also animated sketchbook segments utilizing hand-drawn 2D animation and a dream sequence created with sock puppets. The film even has a closing credits song by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Captain Underpants is a must-see for children and those young at heart. It bursts onto the screen with kinetic energy and fast, fun humor. With plenty of source material to work with, we may see more of the Captain in theatres in the future. In any case, it would be wise put on your underpants and go see this film immediately. It's that good!