Feb-7-2018

Reel Snippet – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Summary: The dull drudgery of Jerome Horowitz Elementary School is alleviated only by the pranks of Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart), two best friends who draw comics in their spare time. When one of their pranks goes too far, their stick in the mud principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) threatens to put them in different classes. Terrified of the very idea to the point of desperation, the two use a plastic ring to hypnotize him — which surprisingly works — into thinking he’s one of their own comic creations, Captain Underpants. The Captain is Krupp’s exact opposite in every way — fun, bombastic, and about as sharp as a sledgehammer — and the kids start to really enjoy life. However, when Captain Underpants (disguised as Principal Krupp) hires a blatantly obvious supervillain, embarrassingly named Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), Harold and George have to juggle the Krupp and Underpants personalities to save their school… or get shrunk in the wash trying.

Review: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is insanely creative and loads of fun. Based off the long running children’s book series (of which I have read precisely one book), this film, according to one fan, captures the spirit of the books 110% with it’s sense of childlike wonder and it’s creative quirks that leave the fourth wall in complete ruin. They even manage to include the “Flip-O-Rama,” a once-per-book gimmick of flipping a page back and forth to make a fight scene look animated. Between this and the iconically stylized designs, this film is truer to its text than a lot of Hollywood adaptations.

Let me just say that the visual gags in this movie are top notch, probably the best I’ve seen all year. These range from quirky animation to different animation styles altogether, such as a hilarious sequence acted out entirely with sock puppets. It’s not just visual gags, of course; there’s some sharp wit as well as some juvenile toilet humor (I mean, the villain’s name IS Professor Poopypants). While the latter stuff did occasionally wear thin for me, it fit the tone overall and I don’t think it’ll detract from any adults watching.

The voice acting also deserves high praise as it’s managed to get some extraordinary performances I wouldn’t have thought possible. Once again, I found myself enjoying a Kevin Hart role (man, I really have to reevaluate my opinion of the guy) as he’s able to balance restraint and over-the-top antics through his voice work. Ed Helms somehow manages to be perfect as both an authoritarian principal and a superhero with boundless enthusiasm, which many fans have said is like the character leaping off the page. Not to mention that we get a good performance from Jordan Peele as humorless know-it-all Melvin and Kristen Schaal, who has a very distinct voice along the lines of Patrick Warburton, is absolutely unrecognizable as Edith the awkward lunch lady. I didn’t hear the actors when I was watching, I heard the characters, which is some seriously high praise.

Despite having minimal exposure to the books, this movie won my heart and I have a feeling it’ll do the same for most of you. It’s main appeal is the amount and creativity of the jokes, but it also has a surprisingly mature message about moderation and taking things as they come. I’m trying to think of reasons not to like this movie and I’m coming up dry. At its best, it’s an amazingly entertaining and creative 90 minutes. At its worst, it’s childish, juvenile, and astoundingly simple… and by god, I love it.

Fun Tidbit: One of the pranks George and Harold pull in the books is rigging the school’s PA system to play Weird Al on loop. Come the movie, guess who they get to do the theme song? (Hint: It rhymes with “beard pal.”) Better yet, Dav Pilkey, the author of the books, didn’t know this was happening until he got to the screening, at which point he went nuts with delight.


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