A new feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, Kevin Hart in the animated “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” and “Drone,” staring Sean Bean.
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot, Kevin Hart in the animated “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” and “Drone,” staring Sean Bean.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to discuss whether “Wonder Woman” is all that wonderful, if “Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie” is crappy or not and if “Drone” lives up to its name.
David Soren calls Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, his adaptation of Dav Pilkey’s bestselling books for kids, subversive.
The animated film is the story of rambunctious fourth graders George Beard and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch). Best friends, they write, illustrate and sell homemade comics about their favourite character, Captain Underpants. “Most superheroes look like they’re flying around in their underwear,” they giggle. “This guy actually does.” They are also pranksters so often in trouble there are two chairs outside the principal’s office labelled, “Reserved for George” and “Reserved for Harold.”
Soren says that wild temperament “is one of the things that made the books successful and controversial at the same time. I’ve never personally understood the controversy, specifically in the case of the books. There is a rebellious spirit to those characters. They are not little angels and I think that is part of why kids love reading them.”
George and Harold’s principal, Mr. Krupp (voiced by Ed Helms), is a grumpy old man who hates comics, Christmas and kittens among other things, and has a plan to put an end to the pranks and annihilate their friendship.
David Soren was born in Toronto and raised in Hamilton.
“They’ve got a terrible principal,” Soren continues, “who is doing horrible things to their school, cancelling music and arts and putting an electronic door opening in his office instead. (It’s good to) stand up to that kind of authority, it deserves to be questioned.
“These days it is not a bad thing for kids in general to have their own voice and stand up for themselves and have rights. I always saw that as a really inspiring part of those books and a key to their success.
“I think of my son now. He’s in fourth grade and in the earlier grades there was a lot more creativity, a lot more play in the education and suddenly it gets a lot more regimented. It gets more like school and it is sort of frustrating to watch how that can be beaten out of kids. You want to protect that aspect of creativity.”
The Toronto-born, Hamilton-raised animator has worked in Los Angeles for 20 years, working on films like The Road to El Dorado, Chicken Run and Shrek, and writing and directing Turbo, the story of a snail who dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500. It’s a resumé that suggests he’s hung onto his childlike creativity.
“I think it is something I never lost. You need a little bit of that nonconformist attitude when you are an artist, and making movies in general. Especially when you’re trying to get a point of view across. Movies are best when they have a point of view and if they get too watered down or become too generic they cease to have an identity anymore.”
There’s no question Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie has an identity. How many other movies feature a talking toilet or a musical Whoopee Cushion symphony?
“Obviously you can’t make a Captain Underpants movie without potty humour,” he says. “But we did hold ourselves to a very high standard. We would not go there unless it was truly very funny.”
When I compliment Soren on giving a character the wonderfully silly name Diarrheastein, he’s chuffed. “I will take that as a great compliment,” he laughs.
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.
The Sheridan College trained Dreamworks animator David Soren first hit on the concept of Turbo ten years ago.
“It started as a lark,” he says. “There was a competition and I turned in the idea the night before the deadline. The Fast and the Furious with snails. That was it. It happened that it won the competition and Dreamworks bought the idea. Then it went nowhere for a long time.”
While Soren worked on other projects like Chicken Run, Shrek, Shark Tale and directed a trio of TV specials based on the Madgascar film franchise the idea of an aspirational snail with dreams of speed stayed with him.
“My six year old boy, from birth, came with a love of cars and racing and all things fast,” he says. “I was not a car nut or a race fan growing up but it really got me thinking about the character in different terms and that freed me up to realize that a snail really is kind of a perfect underdog. Nobody expects anything of them, they’re lives are filled with obstacles; nobody really knows what they do, other than being gross and pesky.”
The next step was character design, no mean feat when your stars are ninety percent shell.
“In the beginning the fact that all those things that you usually rely on, like arms and legs and eyebrows [were missing meant that] we had to get more creative about how to do it. I did drawings early on of these snails with arms and it was creepy. It was just a matter of coming up with other viable ways for them to emote and move around.”
Taking his kids to animated movies also gave him a real sense of what he wanted and more importantly, didn’t want, in Turbo.
“I find myself growing impatient with animated movies that are just a bunch of gags,” he says. “I feel like I am just going to amuse or baby sit my kid. And yet by the same virtue I think it is pointless to make an animated movie that doesn’t have some appeal to children. It has made me want to see all sides of it a bit more and find the heart, find the human story in there. That universal thing that any audience member can connect with but not lose the kids either, because they’re important.”