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You get what you expect with the very silly Captain Underpants, but by embracing it's own madness, you also get a very funny movie
What fuels the imagination of children? Some say it's intellectual inspiration or reminders from their favorite TV shows. The truth of the matter is that ironically, boredom seems to be the catalyst for most children to build their own worlds. Think about it. Go back to when you were eight years old within your elementary school years. Say you were studying an uninteresting subject like the history of hay staking or how barrels of organized. When you find yourself board in that subject, what do you do? Your mind will wonder somewhere that's more interesting and cause you to conjure up characters and stories that would more fascinating.
When kids do it, it's likely going to be more crude, but you can't deny that they try. The subjects in todays movie face one of their own creations and the insanity it insures.
I'll say now that I never read any of the Captain Underpants books even as a kid, but I see them every time I walk into a Barnes & Noble, so you can take that their popular. I figured that they were about goofy characters, and Captain Underpants delivers that, but I was surprised by how creative and funny this was.
Within the Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, forth-graders George Beard (played by Kevin hart) and Harold Hutchins (played by Thomas Middleditch) are the class clowns to do everything to make the rest of the students happy. They also make up their own comic series called "Captain Underpants". Though their pranks are harmless, their cruel principal Benjamin Krupp (played by Ed Helms) despises them and seems to only be happy when the children of his school are expressionless drones. When the pranks prove too much for Mr. Krupp, he reveals that he's going to place the boys in separate classes. In response, George accidentally hypnotizes their principal with a Cracker Jack ring.
The boys set up Mr. Krupp's mind so that whenever fingers are snapped, he becomes Captain Underpants. Though the new superhero alter ego proves to be nicer and funnier to the kids, he's also under the delusion that he has powers, causing to boys to follow him everywhere to make sure he doesn't get hurt. Not only does this reveal how sad Mr. Krupp's life is outside the school, but he accidentally hires a new science teacher Mr. PP (played by Nick Kroll) who wants to rid the world of laughter. Can the boys find a way to stop him and keep Captain Underpants in control?
With a name like Captain Underpants, of course your going to get a very silly story with juvenile names and occasional potty humor. I can tell you now that it's aware of that and fully embraces it to its advantage. The movie keeps up its child-like tone to a point where I was laughing along with the kids in my theater. While there are the immature jokes you'd expect, a lot of jokes are genuinely funny and address the stress that kids, and even teachers go through within their daily lives.
I think what made this work were the voice actors. At first I thought it was odd to have big name celebrities voice kids rather then just having child actors, until I realized that the level of speed needed to get to the fast pace seems to suit Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch better. Ed Helms does well as both Captain Underpants and Principal Krupp, as they keep switching him back and forth to give us a manic, but fun performance. Even Nick Kroll, who is definitely goofy as a mad scientist, does get a moment about his backstory, that made you somewhat sympathetic to him (though how could you not laugh at a name like Professor Poopypants?).
You may notice that Captain Underpants has a similar animation style to the Peanuts Movie, where despite being computer animated, has a look that resembles the flat, hand-drawn feel. I enjoy that, as it only gives more variety to the animation offerings we have. It seems to resemble the illustrations from the book (which we also get in various parts in the movie) without trying to make things to close to real life.
I'll give this eight Captain Underpants books out of ten. While it's not a great movie, I can't imagine what great things you could do with this subject. It's silly and fun; sometimes that's alright as long as it's done well. If you look at the film and only see it as too juvenile, it's unlikely you'll like this. It knows that kids are going to be ones to enjoy this the most, but even this understands that all adults were children at some point. If you can accept that a silly idea can go with itself all the way through, then put on some underpants, and probably some pants over that, and give it a watch.
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