Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie ★★★★☆


Tra-la-laaaa or Tra-la...nah?

Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants books have been a staple of school libraries and the scourge of uppity parents for nearly two decades, chronicling the misadventures of two 4th graders and their hypnotized principal, who fights crime in nothing but his undies as the titular hero. With the massive popularity of the series, it’s strange that it’s taken this long for the characters to cross over into cinema with this year’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.

Could this live up to it’s *ahem* prestigious source material? Grab your Hypno Ring and best tighty-whities and let’s find out.

The Good

Being a fan of the books since I was but a wee ankle biter, it’s a relief that the puerile gags that made the books so hilarious to kids (and cool parents) translate fantastically to the big screen. They don’t feel like cheap attempts at cheap laughs, but rather the sort of jokes thought up in the back of a classroom, during a particularly boring lesson. In this regard, the film has an oddly wholesome quality.

This wholesomeness is accentuated by the entirely genuine, often heartwarming friendship between our two heroes, George Beard and Harold Hutchins (portrayed by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch). While their hyperactivity could’ve proved grating, it really adds to the believability that the two have been friends for years, and makes the pair relatable to children and nostalgic adults alike.

A special mention must also be made about the animation style of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which was uniquely refreshing. Most Dreamworks Animation films such as Shrek and Shark Tale have traditionally had an angular style that adds a layer of realism that arguably overshadows the beloved works of Pixar (just look at Lord Farquad’s impressive chin). However, this would’ve been jarring had it been used to bring Dav Pilkey’s iconic characters to life on the silver screen, so instead, we’re treated to a more stylised presentation that closely resembles Pilkey’s original doodles. Although this may’ve been a cost-cutting technique, it’s hard to argue that it compliments both the source material and tone of the film adeptly.

The Bad

While there’s plenty to enjoy with this flick, there are a few skid marks that held it back from being a straight flush. For example, the film’s main antagonist, the delightfully evil Professor Poopypants, revels in evil for evil’s sake, whereas in the original books he’s driven to criminal insanity by people making fun of his name. Consequently, we’re given a much more one-dimensional villain that is unfortunately largely forgettable. As with most films written for kids, I’d often give this a pass, but when the portrayal of George, Harold, and the hilarious Mr. Krupp/Captain Underpants is so successful, this just feels like a wasted opportunity. 

Finally, if I were to begrudgingly play devil’s advocate for a moment, adults who haven’t read the original Captain Underpants books might find the film adaptation just a smidge crass and for lack of a better word, dumb. But honestly, what were you realistically expecting from a film called Captain Underpants? The next Citizen Kane? Sometimes it’s ok to get off the porcelain pedestal and enjoy a film for what it is - pure, insolent fun.

The Verdict

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie was a delight, and had me securely fastened into the nostalgia trip. It straddles the line between infantile humour and emotive storytelling brilliantly, with larger than life characters that remain grounded and relatable to all generations. It may lack subtlety for the unindoctrinated (*boring) adult, but for the rest of us, Captain Underpants is number one, and definitely not a number two.

★★★★☆

Cap'n Thomas Bakerpants

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie at CeX




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