In an age of bleak summer blockbusters and sad overwrought heroes, “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (based on the novels by Dav Pilkey) flies in to save the day. Starring Kevin Hart (“Get Hard”) and Ed Helms (“The Hangover”) as the inseparable goofballs George and Harold along with Thomas Middleditch (“Silicon Valley”) as Captain Underpants himself, the movie is a nonstop gag train, filled to the brim with poop jokes, fart jokes and a lot of social commentary.
Central to the movie is the undying friendship of George and Harold. Though it’s a tried and true thematic through line, it still works well here, grounding the movie in a sense of realism that might otherwise be hard to come by in a world of professors named “PoopyPants” and talking toilets. The connection between the two characters is both central to the plot as well as the themes of the film, and it is this emotional connection that allows audiences to stay engaged in this somewhat lengthy excursion into silliness.
All of the voice actors do a pretty good job here, but in the end it is Nick Kroll (“The League”) as the villainous Professor PoopyPants who steals the show. His evil plan is funny; his demeanor is funny; his lines are funny; his name is funny — essentially everything about him is hysterical, and every time he’s on screen, the movie comes alive.
Sight gags and potty jokes abound, but it is the constant public education jokes that stick with the audience after the credits roll. The script pulls no punches when it comes to the way in which overwrought administrations are stifling fun, and this gives the movie a winking subtext that transcends the juvenile humor at its surface. Kids and adults alike will find something to smile at while watching the movie.
The film captures the tone and feel of the books, and any kids (or adults) that have read them will surely recognize scenes and lines that are directly pulled from the original novels. Pilkey himself would be proud of the sheer reverence that is present in every single frame of this animated kids wonder, and it seems impossible that anyone with even the slightest bit of a funny bone in their body would be able to resist its charms and surprises. “Captain Underpants” is fun — plain and simple — but the biggest trick it has up its sleeve is its surprising heart. Things even work out for grumpy old Mr. Krupp in the end. “Captain Underpants” is just a great time.