Did I see two new superhero movies in less than a week?
I was a big fan of the Captain Underpants books when they came out. I stopped somewhere past the fifth book, but looking at them again, they still hold up. They were funny, creative, clever, and felt like they were written by a kid. From what I’ve read on Dav Pilkey, the non-fictional parts of these books seem like an autobiography of his childhood and school life.
I think a lot of this film does the books justice especially in being relatable no matter what age you are. For kids who don’t like school and find it both monotonous and boring, that’s captured quite well. From dealing with teachers who also don’t want to be there and the doom and gloom of having to spend almost all your time awake there, there’s no way you’ve never felt that at some point. Like the books, there are moments that show that the film understands kids. Seeing best friends George and Harold hanging out in their treehouse creating comics surrounded by their toys and drawings; it certainly reminded me of a simpler time… Now I run a site alone surrounded by toys and despair over the industry.
This might be the first time I’m reviewing a film adaptation where I’m familiar with the original source material. They took a lot of liberties. This villain was introduced in the fourth book and his plan, while fitting for the film, is completely different from his plan in the book. Not to mention they changed his full name for no reason. Other villains were skipped over and were easter eggs or references in the credits. So for all the hardcore Captain Underpants purists, this may not be for you. Also, no Photo-Atomic Trans-Somgobulating Yectofantriplutoniczanziptomiser. 0/10
One change I like is that there’s a scene where George and Harold discover why Mr. Krupp is the way he is. I thought that scene was great, made sense, and made him less one-dimensional. There’s a love interest for Mr. Krupp who wasn’t in the books. She only has three scenes so she’s perhaps less important than I’d like. The teachers were relegated to cameos so I suppose as another school employee it’s fair. It’s just that she’s there for no reason otherwise. Perhaps as a love interest it’d be nice if there was more to her. Maybe for The Second Epic Movie. She does know his alter ego so that’s something.
The style and designs reminded me of The Peanuts Movie and I recall commenting on how captivated I was by how they animated hair there. I learned from the credits to this movie there are specific people who work on animating hair and other things that I thought were lumped together. What captivated me this time were some of the facial expressions. My favorite was Mr. Krupp gradually cracking a smile. That was something. It was cool seeing other visual styles like sock puppets, comic panels, and of course Flip-O-Rama too.
As for what didn’t work for me, the song and dance numbers. They don’t ruin the film nor are they THAT bad. It’s just that when they were going on, I wanted them to move on. It could be that I didn’t find these songs very catchy or engaging. I definitely liked Weird Al’s Captain Underpants song in the credits though. Otherwise a lot of the original material didn’t work for me either. Some of it felt like padding. These scenes weren’t necessarily padding, but watching them felt like it. I was much happier seeing things that were lifted right out of or felt like they could’ve been from the books.
I’ll admit that when I heard George and Harold’s voices in the trailers, they felt like odd choices. Kevin Hart has an especially distinct voice I couldn’t unhear there. Know any elementary schoolers that sound like this? I sure don’t. I did get used to the voices so they found a sort of sweet spot. Ed Helms did a pretty good job overall, especially when he was Captain Underpants. I’m still for animated films using professional voice actors over relying on star power but for the most part that’s not changing any time soon.
The humor should work for kids and adults. There were kids at my screening and they seemed to have a good time. No surprise, but there’s literal toilet humor in here. The difference between its placement here over something like the Transformers movies is that it makes sense here. In other movies, they’re there to get a cheap laugh or because Michael Bay was chortling when hack writers put it on paper.
To close, someone remembered how to make a 90 minute movie!
This movie doesn’t sell out in that it doesn’t exist to cheat money out of unsuspecting parents who want to throw something in front of their kids. Just like the books, it’s made for kids (and perhaps their parents) to enjoy and isn’t what corporate studio executives think kids would enjoy. I’m willing to bet that this was way better than any of the trailers I saw before it. I mean when I saw The Emoji Movie trailer for the first time and that there was a The Nut Job 2… Come on.
PLEASE take your kids to see this. If you’re a bit older and not familiar with the books, DON’T let the title mislead you into thinking it’s uninspired, generic kid schlock. Give it a try. It’s got action, laffs, fun, and romance. I’m hoping this does well enough and it’s called The Epic First Movie because sequels were planned despite such titling being a thing from the books.