Toilet Humor Done Right
July 27th, 2017
I never thought I’d see the day when Captain Underpants would get a movie. And I never thought I would see it over Wonder Woman in its opening weekend (Wonder Woman sold out like hot cakes). Don’t get me wrong, the books are childhood classics from middle school that made toilet humor more than a one trick farce. That and they fought school censorship for 13 volumes. However, converting that content into a family movie is risky for both author/producer, David Pilkey, and DreamWorks Animation. However, with some fantastic creativity, an incredible cast, and a bonkers story that rival The Lego Batman Movie, this is one of the best animated films of the year.
Geroge Beard and Harold Hutchins (Kevin Hart and Tomas Middleditch) are two best friends surviving Jerome Horwitz Elementary. To cope with their educational prison, they pull off rebellious pranks and create comic books via their Treehouse Comix Incorporated business. But their Principal, Mr. Benjamin Krupp (Ed Helms) and his squealer pet, Melvin Sneedly (Jordan Peele) accumulate Watergate level evidence against the duo to place them in separate classes. In a last-ditch effort, George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp into thinking he’s their own creation, Captain Underpants. Turns out he’s harder to control than a dog without a leash. Meanwhile, a new professor seeks employment as a cover up for his revenge scheme on the world that never stopped laughing at his name: Professor Pippy P. Poopypants (Nick Kroll).
There’s so much effort from the story to animation to make this an epic adventure for the silliest reasons. Despite crocheting a plot from more than one book, it stands on its own while cooking up fan service as the main course. Everyone enjoyed the sheer chaos of something that’s looks straight out of a Rick and Morty where the rules are anything but grounded. Adults laughed as much as kids. Cliches are played for laughs, like a forced romantic interest, bratty kids and evil adults. The toilet humor never becomes a gross-out-sploitation fest like Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul or Osmosis Jones. Once you get past the ticket line as a grown adult, there’s a lot to appreciate.
For grown-ups who play kids, Kevin Hart and Tomas Middleditch are convincing. Not to mention the chemistry and relatable rebellious antics that separates them from other kid characters. Ed Helms sells his vocal cords as Mr. Krupp and the tighty-whities Superman clone with a surprisingly somber backstory. However, Nick Kroll steals the spotlight as the villain with a motivation that’s sad yet hilarious at the expense of his reputation. There’s a lot of epicness put into something so small that it comes off as absolutely charming.
The animators at Dreamworks and Mikros Image took a lot of influence from Pilkey’s books and the BlueSky adaptation of Peanuts. The hand-drawnification of the computer animation knows how tired audiences are of Pixar level realism. It’s bizarre and unique to the point where it morphs from computer to child drawings, to sock-puppets. You can feel the Chuck Jones Grinch coursing through Mr. Krupp’s smile sending chills down the spines of his enemies a la the dementors from Harry Potter. It might not be the most realistic, but the fluidity of each expression and situation really embraces a lot of madhouse moments.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is an epic movie of quirky proportions. A book series that could’ve been adapted into a 90’s live-action cluster-muck like Steel, Tank Girl and The Phantom is best suited for animation in a time when kids and adults are share the same enthusiasm in the medium compared to a decade ago. The characters are relatable in a story so meta it lost its marbles, the animation is one of the most frantic and color-saturated simplicity and it’s a comedic gold fest from the voice acting and the writing. Anyone who’s gone out of their way to keep up with the books owes it to themselves to see a proper novel transition into a movie. Those unfamiliar with the underpants universe will also get a great laugh, so long as you know that it’s a fun nonsensical experience rather than an academy award life changing masterpiece. If none of the sways you over, a hyper-ballistic theme song performed by Weird Al Yankovic will answer all your questions. A match made in heaven when describing the song and the underpants journey.