PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In hopes of staying grounded in reality, let’s just pose the question:
What nine-year-old boy could possibly resist any movie with the word “underpants” in the title?
The nine-year-old I used to be sure couldn’t have.
Which is why Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie will have elementary schoolers cackling and guffawing before the opening credits even roll.
Based on a series of kids’ novels, first published in 1997, by author and illustrator Dav Pilkey – a kindred spirit of young, hyper, misunderstood troublemakers everywhere — the animated Captain Underpants is about two mischievous fourth-grade pranksters, next-door neighbors in Ohio.
George, voiced by Kevin Hart, and Harold, voiced by Thomas Middleditch, take on their megalomaniacal principal, Benjamin “Benny” Krupp, voiced by Ed Helms – who has threatened to put these best buds in different classes — and hypnotize him into stripping down and then tying a curtain around his neck to serve as a cape before he declares himself one of Earth’s trusted defenders.
Meanwhile, George and Harold have turned their treehouse into a comic company called Treehouse, Inc.
Thus is he transformed into the kindhearted but delusional comic book superhero – one with no powers whatsoever — that lends the film its title.
He’s Captain Underpants, who “fights for truth, justice, and all that is pre-shrunk and cottony.”
The Captain sees himself doing battle with the villainous Professor Pippy P. Poopypants (Nick Kroll) – who, naturally, calls himself Professor P — while his handlers’ nemesis is named Melvin (Jordan Peele), the school snitch, a privileged nerd whose invention – a toilet – they tamper with.
Hey, toilet humor is the name of the game here, both literally and figuratively. And, cheap jokes or not, some of them are pretty darn funny – especially for the young target audience.
Director David Sorel (2013’s Turbo), employing a minimalistic animated style that is simplistic but charming, keeps the pacing rapid while working from a Nicholas Stoller script that stays faithful to the source materials by sticking with the kids’ point-of-view, celebrating creativity and imagination and laughter, and even breaking the fourth wall from time to time.
So let’s launder his tighty-whities with 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for the silly but funny kidflick, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Epic it is anything but, but grownups will at least enjoy glancing at and listening to their giggling youngsters.