Straight from the popular series of children's novels by author and illustrator Dav Pilkey, which were published from 1997 to 2015, comes the animated feature film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. And if the title "Captain Underpants" wasn't enough of a clue -- yes, the potty-trained pranks from the source material remain fully intact. Humor-loving, fourth-grade friends George Beard (voice of Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) explode in laughter at the same toilet jokes that your children share the minute they break from your watchful eyes and sit down on the school bus. With a snappy script by Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets) and slick direction from David Soren (Turbo), Captain Underpants is a proper movie adaptation that boasts a sizzling surge of energy that never slows down.
Captain Underpants is a playful cape-and-undies superhero created by best friends and next-door neighbors George (the storyteller) and Harold (the illustrator), and their handmade comic books about him provide an escape from the fun-crushing barons of boredom that teach and administrate their gloomy elementary school. The movie does a fantastic job parodying the underlying problems of a miserable, underfunded, and uninspired educational system -- which is depicted here as a cross between a penitentiary and a babysitting service.
The two villains of the movie are Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants (that's really his name), a creepy new science teacher voiced by Nick Kroll who endures so much teasing about his bathroom-related moniker that he concocts a scheme to prevent children from laughing; and Principal Krupp (Ed Helms), a man without friends and afraid to make any, who plans to end George and Harold's relentless pranks by ruining their friendship. But with the help of a hypnotizing ring from a cereal box, the duo transform their chubby principal (who is neither a "prince" nor their "pal") into their chubby, tighty-whities-rocking, not-so-smart hero, Captain Underpants, which leads to the trio battling the nefarious Poopypants together.
Don't let the seemingly juvenile focus on flatulence and excrement flush away your chances of seeing this movie. The animated characters may have been styled to resemble the drawings of actual fourth-graders, but the storytelling itself is clearly the work of intelligent and thoughtful adults. The film isn't afraid to have George and Harold literally freeze the proceedings to talk to the audience, have characters hop from the current action into comic-book panels, or even segue into a Jim Henson-style puppet show.
If this movie were a day at an amusement park, it wouldn't be one in which you stand in line for 45 minutes; no, it feels like a day spent riding a roller coaster as it climbs hills and spins in loops. Entertaining enough for kids and clever enough for adults, Captain Underpants is a film that the whole family can enjoy.