If you like toilet talk, sock puppets and are younger than age 12, you will enjoy DreamWorks’ latest animated film, “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,” which might be the cure for the summertime blues.
The comedy, based on the popular children’s book series by Dav Pilkey, follows the friendship of fourth-graders George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) who have spent their school lives plotting pranks to thwart their vicious principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms), aka “the worst principal in the world.”
The boys’ antics are well-intentioned. You see, Principal Krupp seems to be in the wrong business: He hates children and tries to suck the fun out of a public school education. He even makes the kids go to the “Invention Convention” on a Saturday just to torture them.
The school know-it-all and principal’s pet Melvin (Jordan Peele) also has it out for the dynamic boy duo and provides enough proof for Mr. Krupp to finally bestow upon the BFFs their worst nightmare — to annihilate their friendship by separating them into different classes. Oh, the humanity.
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In a last-ditch effort to save their friendship from a not-so-long-distance fate, the boys accidentally hypnotize Mr. Krupp into their self-made comic book hero: The Amazing Captain Underpants. Aside from being dimwitted and constantly yelling “Tra La La,” the Captain wears a red cape and tightey whiteys. He’s also the opposite of Mr. Krupp in that he’s overly optimistic and really thinks he can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
As Captain Underpants’ sidekicks, the imaginative boys must find a way to deal with their comic creation as well as the villainous new science teacher Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll).
The DreamWorks storytellers led by director David Soren (”Turbo”) do a good job of adapting the first four books of Pilkey’s series, which was first published in 1997. The film takes most of its plot lines from the second (“Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets”) and fourth (“Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants”) books in the 12-book series.
The film also inventively incorporates CG animation, live-action sock puppets and a flipbook to bring to life the pages of Pilkey’s sentimental ode to boyhood.
For parents, there’s a lot of potty humor. I awkwardly had to explain to my 6-year-old son one of the major running gags in the film. Don’t worry, no spoilers here.
Don’t miss the credits, which feature some expertly crafted mixes of original songs from such artists as “Weird Al” Yankovic, Andy Grammer and Cold War Kids.
With the recent terrorist attack in Manchester, England still on our minds, it was delightful to hear a theater filled with the raucous laughter and squeals from children of all ages.
After all, laughter is the best medicine.
☆☆☆ 1/2 (out of five)
Director: David Soren
Cast: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal
Rated: PG (for mild rude humor throughout)
Running time: 84 min.