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CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: 
THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is the latest DreamWorks Animation film, adapted from the best-selling children’s books of the irreverent superhero by Dav Pilkey.  At Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, best friends George Beard and Harold Hutchins fantasize about a superhero of their own creation, known as Captain Underpants, so named because his garb consists only of a cape and tighty-whities.  However, their principal, the curmudgeon Mr. Krupp, takes them to task about their endless pranks and threatens to make their lives as miserable as possible.  George and Harold soon use a Hypno-Ring on him, and they transform him into Captain Underpants.  With their comic book hero now fully realized, it’s up to Harold, George, and Captain Underpants to stop the maniacal Professor Poopypants from stealing the world’s laughter before nothing becomes funny ever again.

 

The screenplay by Nicholas Stoller, under the direction of David Soren, retains the book series’ quirky charm and themes of friendship.  There is also the trademark bathroom humor, but here, it accentuates the absurdity and provides genuine build-up, rather than being used as a series of desperate gags.  Despite the somewhat short length of the film, the pacing is so tightly packed that it never overstays its welcome and doesn’t require full-blown knowledge of the books themselves.  Weird Al Yankovic’s end title song, along with the frequent breaking of the fourth-wall from Harold and George, further exemplifies the wacky nature of the Captain Underpants universe.  With a smaller budget than previous DreamWorks entries, the filmmakers are allowed more creative freedom and the animation (by Canadian animation studio Mikros Image) applies similar care and attention for the visual designs of the books as Blue Sky’s “The Peanuts Movie.”  In addition to the superb CG, the film also employs traditional 2D animation for the comic book and “Flip-O-Rama” scenes, paper cutouts, and even sock puppets.

 

Ed Helms obtains that ever-delicate balance between the grumpiness of Mr. Krupp and the contrasting vigor and spirit of the Captain Underpants alter ego, complete with his signature “Tra-la-la” theme.  Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch have effective chemistry as George and Harold, and Nick Kroll makes for a charmingly devious villain in his performance as the Einstein-like Poopypants.  Jordan Peele, fresh off the directorial success of “Get Out,” has a fantastically deadpan delivery as the snidely Melvin, while Kristen Schaal makes the most of a supporting character in Edith, the school lunch lady and the object of Mr. Krupp’s affection.  

 

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is a preposterously fun and genuinely worthwhile laugh-a-minute fest that also does great justice to Dav Pilkey’s wonderfully flatulent book series. 

 

**** “Ya-stars”   

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