The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie

If you have school-age children, you're probably very familiar with the Captain Underpants books. Dav Pilkey's series is a fine example of dumb humor done smartly. The stories are filled with things that crack kids up: pranks, silly names, and literal potty humor. (Toilets are everywhere in the books, including a massive robo-commode.) At the same time, the tales themselves are about how much two good friends rely on one another. A strong pop culture sensibility pervades Pilkey's work, which makes it a natural for the big-screen treatment. The animated Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie perfectly captures the goofy spirit of its source material. Plus, it has a theme song performed by Weird Al, so how can it go wrong?

George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are best friends. They enjoy pranking the teachers and staff at their school, especially the stern principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). After he threatens to place them into separate classrooms to discourage their antics, the boys hypnotize Mr. Krupp, making him think that's he Captain Underpants, a tighty whitey-wearing superhero they created for their homemade comic books. That proves to be a good thing when the new science teacher, Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), reveals a nefarious plot to take away the ability of children to laugh.

Pilkey's books are unique, in that they incorporate comic book pages alongside the text, allow the main characters to address the reader, and typically have a “flip” section where you can experience a form of animation by flipping the pages back and forth quickly. Amazingly, Captain Underpants finds ways to transfer all of these qualities to the screen. The movie really does feel like one of the books springing to life. The computer animation replicates the visual style of Pilkey's work brilliantly.

The oddball sense of humor is there, too. While it may seem as though it doesn't take a lot of genius to name a character “Professor Poopypants,” the movie, like the books, acknowledges the fact that such things make kids giggle. When you're in grade school, you probably haven't been exposed to hardcore satire, political comedy, or anything edgy. You laugh at farting, butts, making wisecracks about the planet Uranus, and so on. Captain Underpants is funny because it makes you get back in touch with the part of yourself that used to delight in that sort of thing. It gets the idea that kids have no filter, no belief that subjects are “beneath” them.

The voice actors are extremely well-cast. Hart and Middleditch create convincing best friend chemistry. Helms, meanwhile, amusingly veers back and forth between Mr. Krupp's hard-nosed authoritarian stance and Captain Underpants's dim-witted enthusiasm, while Kroll plays Poopypants with a wonderfully over-the-top villainy. Nicholas Stoller's screenplay gives them a lot of funny lines to say, providing just the right wink-at-the-audience quality.

Perhaps obviously, there's not a lot of depth here. No one is going to put this movie in the same category as Inside Out or Kubo and the Two Strings. That doesn't mean it isn't a worthy family film, though. Captain Underpants is a charming ode to friendship, creativity, and the value of a good, hearty laugh.

Anyone familiar with Pilkey's books will appreciate the faithful adaptation. Those who aren't may be tempted to pick a few up.

( out of four)

Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie is rated PG for mild rude humor throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.