My experience with DreamWorks’ latest film Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie will probably be different than many readers. I went into it fresh having seen the trailer, but without reading any of the popular books by Dav Pilkey. I’m not sure what fans of the books will think, but as a newbie to the franchise I walked away completely charmed by the film.
There are two aspects that appealed to me the most about this Captain Underpants film – the inventive animation and the consistently funny script. Let’s start with the visual style:
Captain Underpants was produced outside of the normal DreamWorks studio system for a lower cost at Mikros Image in Montreal, Canada. This is why the film has a different feel than the typical Dreamworks film. However, what surprised me the most was the way it used 2D animation, and even live action puppetry, to tell the story. I have never seen this in any other DreamWorks film.
The CG animated sections also felt new, and reminded me a little bit of The Peanuts Movie by Blue Sky. It was bright, colorful, and constantly surprising the viewer with new approaches and artistic touches.
The other aspect I loved was the comedy. I’m often not a big fan of the parody style of DreamWorks comedies, but Captain Underpants doesn’t take that approach.
While there is a lot of toilet humor, most of the comedy comes from the relationship of the two boys, Harold and George, and their engaging dialogue. For example, when they find out they might be split up into different classes, one boy says, “Oh no. Long distance relationships never work out!”
I also appreciated that the humor is for kids. Like I said, there is a lot of toilet humor but I was so glad to see that there were almost no jokes meant only for adults. I hate that in animated films. This is made for kids, but adults will find themselves chuckling in spite of themselves. Comedy veteran screenwriter Nicholas Stoller takes his experience writing Storks and improves it, and the final result is much funnier in Captain Underpants.
I also loved how the friendship of the two boys, Harold and George, is based on creative play. Instead of mindlessly consuming entertainment, as we often see in kids today, these boys are creating their own stories and worlds. Even their pranks are pretty creative, and meant to bring other people joy.
It’s funny because the one character I kind of forgot about is Captain Underpants and I guess that could be a flaw, but the film is really more about the boys, despite what the title might imply. Maybe in the second movie they will develop his character more?
My only other issue with the movie is that I wish they hadn’t used adult voice actors for the children. The characters are voiced by Kevin Hart (George) and Thomas Middleditch (Harold). It takes me out of the story a little bit, but it’s a small nitpick I was able to deal with. Ed Helms is a lot of fun as both the stern Principal Krupp and the fun Captain Underpants – tra la la!
Overall, I really enjoyed Captain Underpants: the First Movie and I think families should go out and see it. Kids will love it, and adults will be able to appreciate the inventive storytelling and good jokes. It’s a refreshing surprise in the 2017 animation slate, and one I can imagine becoming a favorite DreamWorks film for many families.
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes