Overview: Best friends George and Harold accidentally brainwash their grumpy school principal into believing he is one of their own creations come to life. 20th Century Fox; 2017; Rated PG; 89 minutes.
Tra-la-la!: Based off a series of books of the same title, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is just as clever as it is funny. It doesn’t contain the meme-worthy escapades of The Boss Baby but how Captain Underpants functions as a whole is far more impressive than its title would have you assume.
If The Boss Baby was a modern Hannah Barbara cartoon with plastique sheen, Captain Underpants is the Looney Tunes parody of a superhero movie. Characters with explosive repertoire guide zany sequences of absurdist comedy and slapstick action. During a few sequences, you can practically hear the Road Runner’s iconic “meep meep” as characters zoom around the screen.
The film also brings along the childlike animation of the original children’s books. The marriage of old pencil inspired animation with 3D CG gives the film a distinct visual panache uncommon to animation. If that wasn’t enough, Captain Underpants never allows jokes to overstay their welcome, constantly changing their own format. The visual fun doesn’t stop there as Captain Underpants presents a mesh of slapstick, surreal, and fourth-wall-breaking shenanigans to evoke a variety of comedic instances as well as clear parody of comic book exposition. Eat your heart out, Deadpool.
Farts with Hearts: For a script (by Nicholas Stoller) deeply coded with as many variations of poop jokes as humanly possible, there’s a remarkable wit and warmth to it all. When it’s not inventing new ways to make people of all ages chuckle at names like Professor Poopypants, Captain Underpants takes a look at the world of a child from a mature perspective. Never condescending or cruel, the film takes time in devoting itself to the idea that everyone should lighten up once in awhile. Still, there are absolutely instances where someone can step over the line. The childlike wonder of George and Harold as they go from rash to understanding is built on a cavalcade of emotional beats that hint at a sadness.
As the majority of the film takes place within the confines of a middle school, Captain Underpants never shies away from its feeling on the education system. The school system is broken, placing priority on standardized testing, overlooking art programs, and generally just in the shitter. The principal turned superhero, Mr. Krupp, is angry and alone. So while it’s both accidental and hilarious to the George and Harold when Krupp becomes an entertainment zombie for them, their payback quickly becomes bullying before eventually morphing into an outlet for their own sanctity in a system that has left them to fend for themselves and their classmates. And hey, when even a maniacal scientist focused on eradicating laughter from the planet notes how poor the education system is, it’s painfully simple to see something is amuck here. The titular Captain has a long way to go before tackling the faulty education system but if he can help some kids through the maelstrom of adolescence, I’d say it’s a solid start.
Overall: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a joyous, self-aware adventure for the whole family with endless wit to spare.
Featured Image: 20th Century Fox