My kids grew up reading Dav Pilkey‘s blissfully silly, intentionally irreverent Captain Underpants books, and I was at least as excited as they were when we learned the Captain was making the jump to the big screen. Unfortunately, we missed his Epic First Movie when it hit local theaters. Thankfully, we’re now able to enjoy the adventure on DVD, Blu-ray, and digitally.
George Beard (Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch), two precocious fourth-graders at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School, continually find themselves on the other side of Principal Benny Krupp’s (perfectly played by Ed Helms of The Office and The Hangover fame) desk due to their constant pranks and the “potty humor” celebrated in their homemade comics. The tables turn when the duo—caught in the act and now faced with the very real possibility of being placed in separate classrooms—use a 3D Hypno Ring to convince Krupp that he is none other than their briefs-clad crimefighting creation, Captain Underpants.
Things only become more complicated with the arrival of an evil science teacher bent on draining the laughter and joy from children’s lives, but Principal Krupp/Captain Underpants, now imbued with genuine superpowers thanks to ingesting some toxic school lunch leftovers, and his two “sidekicks” stand up to his army of humorless child zombies and the massive Turbo Toilet 2000. In the end, good triumphs over evil—or perhaps it’s more accurate to say love and merriment defeat artificially enhanced boredom and apathy.
Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie is a great family film, particularly if you and yours are firm supporters of adolescent tomfoolery. However, beneath the fart jokes and giant mechanized toilets, there’s a certain emotional underpinning to the film that should be accessible even to the non-potty humor set.
Like the books themselves, the narrative core of Captain Underpants isn’t the titular character: it’s George and Harold, their friendship and their shared creativity and their genuine affection for each other. Remember, the catalyst for Krupp’s transformation—other than the school cafeteria food, I mean—is the desperation born when the boys fear they’ll be separated.
Sure, there are hints of romance, especially with regard to Principal Krupp and Lunch Lady Edith (expertly voiced by the always amazing Kristen Schaal), but that pales in comparison to the celebration of simple platonic love and enduring friendship that powers the story. No pun intended.
With tons of bonus materials (a healthy half-hour of them, including deleted scenes, competing hero and villain guides, and a lyric video for Weird Al’s contribution to the soundtrack), a stellar cast, and some of DreamWorks’ most dazzling animation to date (including a sock puppet scene that’s not to be missed), Captain Underpants: The Epic First Movie is a must-own. But, more importantly, it’s an amazing way to remind our sons and daughters the true value of friendship… and to always wear clean underwear.