Considering the Captain Underpants children’s novel series by Dav Pilkey has been a hit with kids since the 1990s, it’s a surprise a film adaptation hasn’t happened sooner.
Turns out Pilkey only agreed to sell the rights to DreamWorks Animation in 2011, and judging from the quality of the movie, perhaps it was worth the wait.
Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch voice best friends and neighbours George and Harold, who are constantly pulling pranks to brighten up their depressing elementary school, which is run by the unhappy Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms).
One day they go too far and Krupp threatens to have them separated. To stop this, George hypnotises Mr. Krupp with his 3D Hypno Ring and is surprised when it actually works. They then get Krupp to be Captain Underpants, their comic book superhero creation, every time they click their fingers.
This certainly helps when the school comes under attack from mad scientist Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), who teams up with class do-gooder Melvin (Jordan Peele), to rob the children of laughter after suffering years of ridicule over his name.
There is a lot of slapstick and toilet humour to please the younger viewers but there is plenty in there for adults too. The script is written by Nicholas Stoller, the director of Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and it is smart, littered with pop culture references and jokes that will likely go over the heads of the kids.
Helms does a terrific job voicing two characters with completely different tones and vocal delivery – Krupp is angry and resentful while Underpants is positive, enthusiastic and willing to tackle all problems, even though he doesn’t actually have any superhero powers until later on when he comes into contact with some green alien goo.
Hart manages to tone down his usual larger-than-life personality so he doesn’t overpower Middleditch and they feel like a good match as the best buddies, while Kroll seems to have become the go-to guy for European characters after voicing pig Gunter in Sing.
At 89 minutes, Captain Underpants whips along and doesn’t over stay its welcome. Plus, the central story is regularly broken up with asides, including explorations of the boys’ comic book creations.
Although not every single joke hits the mark, especially the toilet humour, it is very entertaining to both children and adults alike and is a perfect way to spend an afternoon this summer holiday.