Movie Review: "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie"
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) are best friends in elementary school. They love potty humor—like most children their age—but their passion is to create their own comic books. Their favorite and most developed comic book character is Captain Underpants (Ed Helms), a superhero with super-strength, the power of flight, and whose costume that is nothing more than tighty-whities and a curtain around his neck. Then, after a series of elaborate pranks, the boys end up hypnotizing their principal—convincing him that he is Captain Underpants.
The Principal has no real powers, but he completely believes that he is the superhero from their comics. It may have been funny at first, but they soon realize that their principal is now a danger to himself and others, as he believes he has superpowers when he actually does not. They know how to reverse the hypnosis, but unfortunately things are not that simple. It now seems that a mad-scientist has applied for a job at the school—whose primary goal is to find a way to create a device that makes children incapable of laughter. Their new superhero could be of some use to them, but he is ultimately still without powers of any kind.
The Pros & Cons
Captain Underpants (+4pts)
Slow Start (-4pts)
Kid Humor (+4pts)
The Villain (-5pts)
Pro: Captain Underpants (+4pts)
Surprisingly, I actually ended up enjoying this character, which I think is mainly because he was essentially two very different characters wrapped up into one. On one hand, he was Principal Krupp who was an angry man who was devoted to ending Harold and George's friendship. On the other hand, he was Captain Underpants who was an ordinary elementary school principal who believed he was a superhero even though he had no gadgets or abilities to rely on. At first I thought this would be a very one-note character, but once the boys hypnotized him, everything got pretty chaotic. At the snap of a finger, Principal Krupp turned into Captain Underpants. When exposed to water, Captain Underpants turned back into Principal Krupp. This back-and-forth worked pretty well at keeping the movie unpredictable.
Con: Slow Start (-4pts)
I unfortunately thought the beginning of this movie dragged on longer than it needed to. It set up the boys' friendship with one another through flashbacks. It set up their history of pranks. It set up their history with Principal Krupp. It also set up their passion for creating comics.
The beginning of this movie basically consisted of a ton of setup, even though most of that setup was fairly self-explanatory. The filmmakers could have cut a lot of these flashback sequences, and the story would not have been impacted at all. This leads me to believe that the filmmakers had a story, then realized that their script was way too short, so they added a bunch of unnecessary flashback sequences to force a longer run-time than what would have occurred naturally. That mixed with the fact that the humor in this movie was mostly kid humor—which I will get into a little later—made the beginning of this movie tough to get through.
Pro: Climax (+4pts)
I thought the climax of this movie worked pretty well. It had silly action and a silly premise with silly humor staying pretty consistent throughout. The climax delivered a pretty typical superhero climax battle on paper, but it maintained the overall tone of a kids animated comedy. It never took itself seriously, and resulted a climax that worked pretty well for this movie. There was also a page flip sequence which worked really well—you will know what I mean if you see the movie. They had a very specific name for it in the movie, and I do not remember what that name was, but it was a fun little sequence that took place during what could have been a pretty generic battle sequence. It resulted in a climax that could have been very typical, but ended up being both entertaining and unique—due to the unique page-flipping style that this movie allowed for.
Con: Stakes (-4pts)
One issue I had with this movie was the stakes. I did not think the stakes were high enough for the kids to resort to such drastic measures. I am not referring to the villain's goal here, I will get to that later. Instead I am referring to two plot points that I did not think should have worried the boys as much as they did. The first was that Principal Krupp wanted to separate the boys into different classrooms which were down the hall from each other. I get wanting to be in the same class as your best friend, but being in different classes does not mean the end of a friendship. Nonetheless the boys treated it as the potential end of their friendship and reacted as such. As if they would not be allowed to hang out in their tree-house together after school either way.
Pro: Kid Humor (+4pts)
As should be no surprise in a movie titled Captain Underpant: The First Epic Movie, this movie lays pretty heavily on potty humor. I think in that respect this movie worked well. I think kids will really enjoy this movie, and I think I parents, who resort to potty humor for their kids will also appreciate movie. However, I do not think this is an animated movie that will work for adults who are not are not easily amused by potty humor. Fortunately, this was a kids movie and was made to entertain kids—not adults—and I think this movie's comedy was effective at doing exactly that.
Con: The Villain (-5pts)
I thought the villain's presence at the school was insanely coincidental and ridiculous. I also did not think his presence helped his plan in any way. However, let us ignore all that. The filmmakers had to come up with a villain in for a kids movie, so needed to come up with something that such a villain would be after. What they came up with was easily one of the most rudiculous, head-smack-worthy things that they could have come up with for the villain to hate: laughter.
The villain—Professor P (Nick Kroll)—wanted to end laughter on a global scale. Oh and of course he wanted to start with children. He wanted to do this for the most cookie-cutter reason you could imagine, and the his story went in an incredibly typical and predictable direction. Losing laughter is obviously a bad thing, but it was such a ridiculous, generic thing to hate and it made for a pretty predictable and uninteresting primary antagonist.
Grade: C- (74pts)
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie was a pretty average kids movie. Kids will find it very funny, I am sure, but it had its fair share of issues. Dreamworks was most likely hoping for a hit movie to spark an animated kids movie franchise. However, this movie was no Shrek.
Its primary antagonist was very predictable, and extremely typical—which is a weird thing to say, but you will know what I mean if you have seen the movie. It also seemed like the kids' actions were far too drastic for what was at stake. Most importantly, there was the beginning of the movie which felt like it dragged on in order to force a longer run-time. Fortunately, this movie certainly had its moments. Its titular character was pretty entertaining and unpredictable—when it easily could have been the opposite—but the most important thing going for this movie was that its humor was definitely entertaining for kids. Would I call this a good movie? No, it was very far from it, but I think it served its primary purpose of entertaining children in the audience.