Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
dir David Soren
scr Nicholas Stoller
prd Mireille Soria, Mark Swift
voices Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal, DeeDee Rescher, Brian Posehn, David Soren, Mel Rodriguez, Susan Fitzer, Lesley Nicol
release US 2.Jun.17, UK 24.Jul.17
17/US DreamWorks 1h29
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Laugh it up: Harold, George and the Captain

hart middleditch helms
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie For a manic, densely joke-packed animated action adventure, this movie has a surprisingly sweet centre, focussing on the friendship between two classmates who recognise in each other a similar sense of humour. So even if the filmmakers don't give the audience much time to think about these deeper themes, the wackiness is refreshingly grounded.

George and Harold (Hart and Middleditch) are best pals, constantly keeping the other students laughing at their antics. But their lively pranks infuriate Principal Krupp (Helms) and humourless kiss-up classmate Melvin (Peele). To crush their friendship, Krupp decides to place them in separate classes. In a panic, George and Harold somehow manage to hypnotise Krupp and convince him that he's Captain Underpants, the dim-witted superhero from the epic comic books they write in their treehouse. Then an even nastier villain arrives in the shape of new science teacher Professor P (Kroll).

The film is a flourish of animations styles. The main story is a plasticky but buoyantly energetic flurry of colour and motion. And this is accompanied by flashbacks and flights of fancy that are brought to life using flip-books, pen and ink, traditional animation, comic strips and even sock puppets. Like a hyperactive tween, the movie never sits still for long, ricocheting from one gag to the next, always with a big wink at the audience. This makes even the constant stream of rude gags remarkably enjoyable.

It helps that everything is anchored around George and Harold's friendship (we even see their meet-cute moment). These kindred spirits see the world as a place that needs cheering up with a joke, prank or just something silly. Their open-hearted approach is infectious, and really ought to be inspiring. As is the way they bravely refuse to back down from bullying grown-ups or tattle-tales. Their epic confrontation with Professor P is never anything but a laugh, even as the stakes get higher.

Yes, everything is seen through the hugely exaggerated eyes of young boys with boundless imaginations. Even as the school cuts its arts programme, they can't help but create their comic books on their own. And reopening the art room is the first thing they think of to help spark joy for their fellow classmates. Meanwhile, the filmmakers cleverly humanise the grumpy adults as well, looking into why they're so miserable. The explanations may be simplistic, but it's a great lesson for young audiences. And for older ones as well.

cert u themes, vulgarity, violence 15.Jul.17

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