When I was in third grade, I really wanted to see the movie Blank Check. My parents, on the other hand, weren’t so thrilled. Eventually, I convinced them to rent it for me and I loved it. As expected, they didn’t. Honestly, in my childhood mind, I didn’t understand why. But then I re-watched it this year and it all made total sense. Blank Check is geared entirely to kids in every way imaginable with no logical reasoning built into the story whatsoever. And who remembers Blank Check? No one.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie ultimately makes the same mistake as Blank Check. It only cares to appeal to kids. Some adults may find it funny at times, even I got a good chuckle, but, let’s be clear, it’s for kids only. From the potty humor to the watered down simplistic friendships dilemmas, this movie is trying to connect with kids at their most base, immature level. For that, it highly works. Children will die laughing at the fart jokes and inappropriate humor. However, it’s doubtful it has lasting staying power.
Starring Kevin Hart (George) and Ed Helms (Captain Underpants / Mr. Krupp), Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is about George and Harold, two best friends who write and illustrate comic books in their treehouse. However, once their principal Mr. Krupp threatens to separate the two pranksters, they hypnotize him into thinking he’s Captain Underpants, one of their comic book heroes.
The story takes a little bit to really get going with tons of exposition and breaking the fourth wall. For the first half, it’s a little boring and hard to say where it’s going to go. The story focuses so heavily on George and Harold, it’s difficult to see why they called the movie Captain Underpants at all. However, once the plot kicks in and gets into the second act, all of it becomes clear, but also, incredibly bizarre.
The catalyst for each plot point is random and unexplained. George decides to hypnotize Krupp with a ring he got out of a cereal box. Because, yeah, sure, why not? The villain Professor Poopypants literally walks onto a scene for no reason whatsoever other than “we need a new villain.” Nothing makes sense and it isn’t supposed to.
George and Harold’s friendship remains the strongest element to the movie. Throughout, their friendship is front and center and is a pivotal piece to the plot and the stakes. If there’s any depth to be found in a film filled with potty humor and cheap gags, this is it. However, the depth only goes so far.
While a Pixar film might bring the audience out to the deep end of the pool, this friendship is just getting passed four feet. Regardless, I give the writers some credit for trying to have stronger elements of a story rather than just depending heavily on the gross jokes and flashy animation.
Again, everything about this movie is tailor-made for kids. The potty humor is endless. The main villain’s name is Professor Poopypants (his full name is even longer) if that gives you any indication of the lowbrow humor. All the adults are either boring or evil. Principal Krupp is the main villain and he’s a jerk. George and Harold’s parents aren’t seen in the movie. Their teachers are tired, sad, and boring. Science and learning are considered uncool and nerdy. Not understanding lowbrow humor makes you lame. Even the plot is based on Harold and George being put in two different classes and their wild attempts to stop it. Because the last thing a kid wants is to be separated from their friends.
Cartoons have a license to speak to their demographic and ignore everyone else. And Captain Underpants takes that license with gusto. In other words, parents, you’ve been warned. Prepare yourself for a 90-minute slog through the wacky mind of a child.
To some degree, the movie gets credit for understanding its source material and the audience most interested in the story. However, even in the most juvenile of stories, full of antics, pranks, and silliness (Calvin and Hobbes come to mind), genuine and lasting depth can be found, but Captain Underpants doesn’t really care. It’s good with fart jokes only. For that reason, it’s likely to be forgotten in the next five years, to the delight of parents everywhere, overshadowed by whatever new and flashy cartoon comes down the road.
KID GRADE: 10/10
ADULT GRADE: 3/10
Photos courtesy of: Dreamworks Pictures.