Captain Underpants Soars above Mediocre Storytelling
- Ryan Duncan
- 2017 1 Jun
Despite an excess of toilet humor (literally. The villain is named Professor Poopypants and he rides around in a giant commode), there's no denying Captain Underpants has the charisma and gumption necessary to rescue itself from becoming another lowbrow summer outing. Kids will find plenty to laugh at, and even adults may crack a smile. 3.5 out of 5.
Based on a series of children’s novels of the same name, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie introduces viewers to a pair of rambunctious pranksters named George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch). The two boys have been friends for as long as they can remember, and they love nothing more than to pass each day drawing comics and pulling practical jokes on their teachers. However, when the curmudgeonly Principle Krupp (Ed Helms) threatens to place them in separate classes, the boys accidentally hypnotize him into believing he's the semi-clothed superhero, Captain Underpants. Their timing couldn't be better either, as an infamous mad scientist has taken up residence at the school and is attempting to rid the world of laughter forever. Now George and Harold must help Captain Underpants rescue the school from certain doom, and hopefully save their friendship in the process.
You have to give DreamWorks animation credit, Captain Underpants knows how to think like a kid. The story is presented exactly the way a pair of hyperactive young boys would tell it, and the animation is interspersed with random moments of sock puppetry and comic drawings. With any other movie this would be annoying, but Captain Underpants makes it feel natural. Furthermore, while the film does have an overabundance of toilet humor, it never crosses the line of becoming irritating. The movie knows it's absurd, and it's chosen to lean into it rather than pretend to be something else. It all comes together as a piece of fun, if brainless, entertainment.
For a movie called Captain Underpants, the titular hero is regulated to something of a side character. The focus is on George and Harold, and while the two boys make excellent protagonists, it would have been nice if the goofy superman had gotten more screen time. On top of everything, some of the smaller plot points are left unresolved, and you don't get the feeling that any of the characters really grew much. Captain Underpants is a fun movie, but it’s not transcendent, and kids will likely forget about it as soon as the next animated film comes around (e.g. Cars 3 in two weeks).
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
While there is an emphasis on friendship and learning to laugh at yourself (a lesson some of us Christians should probably revisit), there is absolutely nothing spiritual to be found in Captain Underpants. George and Harold are interested in having fun and pulling pranks, not fathoming the secrets of the universe. The lesson here is to let kids be kids.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG for mild rude humor throughout
- Language/Profanity: As mentioned earlier, the villain's full name is Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants. That should tell you everything you need to know about the movie and its level of foul language (pun regretfully intended).
- Sexuality/Nudity: Well, the movie is called Captain Underpants so you're obviously going to see a lot of underwear. One of the boy’s comics tells the story of “Underpanty World” where everyone wears only underwear; some crude drawings of people are shown but no genitalia. As a prank, the boys switch the signs for the bathrooms causing a teacher to walk in on a man urinating but nothing is shown; a joke about peeing a little in your PJs; a whoopee cushion choir plays a song; there is a moment where Captain Underpants flings his underwear at the villain but nothing is shown below the neck; a "Uranus" joke; Principle Krupp has a crush on a lunch lady named Edith and the two flirt; Harold's parents are implied to be divorced.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Plenty of slapstick violence but no one is hurt; two men are repeatedly hit by cars but unhurt; a hand-drawn cat is killed with a flamethrower but the image is censored; a cat attacks a bird and is then attacked by a dog; Captain Underpants fights a giant, robotic toilet.
Drugs/Alcohol: Captain Underpants eventually does acquire real superpowers by drinking some toxic waste created from leftover school lunches.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: Small children, fans of the books, people who enjoy slapstick and toilet humor, and parents looking for a safe movie for their kids.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: Adults, people with a more refined sense of comedy, those who prefer top-shelf animation.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, directed by David Soren, opened in theaters June 2, 2017; available for home viewing September 12, 2017. It runs 89 minutes and stars Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele and Kristen Schaal. Watch the trailer for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie here.
Ryan Duncan is Entertainment Editor for Crosswalk.com.
Publication date: June 1, 2017
Image courtesy: ©DreamWorks