As if there weren’t already enough superheroes on the big screen these days, along comes another one tailor made for the younger set. “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is an animated film based on Dav Pilkey’s bestselling books for kids.
Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch loan their voices to rambunctious fourth graders George Beard and Harold Hutchins. The pair write, illustrate and sell homemade comics like “Sad Worm” and Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman.” Their favourite character is Captain Underpants. “Most superheroes look like they’re flying around in their underwear,” they say. “This guy actually does.”
They are also pranksters who get in trouble so often there are two chairs outside the principal’s office labelled, Reserved for George and Reserved for Harold. Their principal, Mr. Benjamin “Benny” Krupp (Ed Helms), a grumpy old man who hates comics, Christmas and kittens among other things has an plan to put an end to the pranks, and “annihilate your friendship.”
He plans to split them up, placing them in different classes. “You won’t be together,” says Krupp. “You won’t be able to enjoy each other and ruin my life.” To avoid being separated George accidentally puts Krupp into a trance using his Hypno-Ring, the most powerful item ever found in the cereal box, turning him into Captain Underpants.
The Captain Underpants has few actual superhero powers, but his skills—along with his sidekicks George and Harold—will be tested as he does battle with the evil substitute teacher Professor Pee-Pee Diarrheastein Poopypants Esquire (Nick Kroll). Tired of people making fun of his name the mad genius inventor and revenge seeker, plans to eliminate laughter from the world by destroying everyone’s Hahaguffawchuckleamalus, the part of the brain that controls the human capacity for mirth.
His secret weapon? The Turbo Toilet 2000, a giant toilet invented by humourless classmate Melvin Sneedly (Jordan Peele). Because he has no sense of humour—“He’s like a chair or a supermodel,” says Poopypants—Melvin is the supervillain’s perfect sidekick.
As befitting a story about two troublemakers “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” embraces the kid friendly anarchy of Pilkey’s books. It zips along in a flash of gags, bright colours and textures. Director David “Turbo” Doren utilizes state of the art computer generated images plus puppets, flipbook animation and children’s drawings come-to-life to illustrate the story. It’s lively and fun and if you don’t like a joke, hang on, there will be another one a second later.
That potty humour is the lowest form of wit is a running gag throughout but a film titled “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” wouldn’t be quite the same without it. It’s hard to image the story without the musical Whoopee Cushion symphony or the wonderfully silly name Diarrheastein. If, like Melvin, you have to ask, “Why is it funny?” then maybe it’s not for you, but if you’ve ever giggled in science class at the name Uranus, you’ll enjoy.