Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, B-
Rated PG, 89 minutes
The new animated feature film from Dreamworks Animation, "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is a familiar yet entertaining mix of silly gags, clean potty humor (does that even make sense?) and some jokes the adults will appreciate more than the kids. Based on the best-selling children's book series from Dav Pilkey (the fourth book in the series is the focus here), it's nothing new, but it should still please its intended audiences of young ones.
George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins ("Silicon Valley's" Thomas Middleditch) are two overly imaginative pranksters who spend hours in a treehouse creating comic books. When their mean principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) threatens to separate them into different classes, the mischievous boys accidentally hypnotize him into thinking that he's a ridiculously enthusiastic, incredibly dimwitted superhero named Captain Underpants, though all three must save the day from an evil scientist named Professor P (Nick Kroll) who threatens to banish laughter from the world.
"Captain Underpants" is colorfully voiced and swiftly paced, and is directed by David Soren ("Turbo"), with a screenplay from Nicholas Stoller, who's been responsible for such adults vehicles as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Neighbors," but also for co-writing the latest two Muppets films. Stoller's occasionally uneven script may explain some "Shrek"-like pop-culture humor that is a slight departure from Pilkey's novels but is a welcome addition, given that there isn't much to the thin storyline.
The inspired voice casting also helps, with comedian Hart and Middleditch a solid pairing and giving some energy to the film, as does Helms as the mean principal who is transformed to Captain Underpants, and Kroll's evil scientist, who gets in many of the film's best lines ("if I had insurance you'd be in trouble," he says after getting hit by a car, and the film's best line, "O really, Oprah" when others tell him he's unable to laugh at himself). The last act goes over-the-top and seems a little out of place with the rest of the film, but the young set will still enjoy the fun and getting to say "Professor Poopypants."
Though the kids will enjoy "Captain Underpants" the most, the adults will find themselves laughing more than they care to admit.