The first time I saw the cover of a graphic novel series called “Captain Underpants”, I laughed, simply assuming it wasn’t a real series. I quickly discovered how real it was and was even more surprised to find out how big of a hit it is with kids. Now, the Captain has received his first full-length animated film, and (as the title would suggest) it’s definitely geared more towards the younger audiences than others that target young and old alike. Still, the movie has its charm and can be enjoyed by an adult, provided they go into it through the eyes of a child. Otherwise, the older generation will probably find themselves rolling their eyes more often than laughing.
George and Harold (voiced Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch) are two best friends going through the typical elementary lifestyle: surviving school, using their imaginations, and being all-around goofy boys. Their principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), does everything he can to squelch their imaginative minds as he assumes it does nothing but get in the way of his disciplined and orderly way of running a school. The two boys discover they have the ability to transform their overbearing principal into their own creation, an overtly silly superhero by the name of “Captain Underpants” . As superheroes need a villain to butt heads with, George and Harold pit their hero against a new teacher (Nick Kroll) by the name of Professor Poopypants (I’m not making this up), who has enrolled as a science teacher and the boys’ school in order to carry out his master plan of ridding the world of human laughter. Do I need to remind you that this is a kid’s movie?
As you would infer from the names of the characters, this is a story full of potty humor. While that would turn off a good amount of adult viewers, “Captain Underpants” does a fair job of keeping this off-color humor very PG, and it never even comes close to being overly raunchy. It’s delivered in a silly fashion instead of going for the “gross-out” factor. Even if you’re immediately turned off by this brand of comedy, there’s still quite a bit of heart to be found in this tale. George and Harold have a very believable bond that teaches important values of friendship and having a sense of humor, even under times of duress. I laughed quite a bit, but I’ll be the first to admit that being surrounded by an audience enjoying their first week of summer vacation might have played a small part in that.
As far as animated movies go, this one ranks right up there with some of the best. It doesn’t have a realistic look by any means, but it brings the characters from the book series to life in a way that gives them more depth and vibrancy than they’ve ever had before. The voice acting is equally top notch, especially since I never felt distracted by the fact that grown men were voicing 10-year olds. As silly as this plot is, I have to imagine that this must have been a blast to make. Each actor really put their heart and soul into their work.
If you’ve reached this far in the review, you’ve probably already made your mind up about this movie, and I totally get that. “Captain Underpants” has a very distinct demographic that it’s going for, and they delivered on what they set out to do: make a movie just for kids. If you’re willing to put yourself in the shoes of a fourth grader, you’ll find plenty of enjoyment here (especially if you have kids with whom to enjoy this experience), but don’t expect a Pixar level of meaningful story.