The most recent response to the current superhero renaissance, DreamWorks adaptation of the brilliant Captain Underpants book series takes the creativity and imagination of the source material and perfectly translates it to cinematic form; delivering a perfectly enjoyable and harmless film for children yet not managing to satisfy the rest of the family in the same way The Lego Movie or any given Pixar movie could – revealing the surprisingly strong difference between what’s in a family film and a children’s film.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie follows George Beard and Harold Hutchins, two young pranksters who just want to laugh, and their struggle to do so under the eye of strict Principal Benjamin Krupp. After being caught in action, they will do anything to stick together and so they hypnotise Krupp into becoming the fictional superhero and star of their comics Captain Underpants. Built on crude humour and childlike logic, the films focus on friendship and laughter is part of what makes it so entertaining for a younger audience yet tiresome for older viewers, unable to relate on a more empathic level. It is clear that we aren’t meant to take the plot at all seriously and asking a Captain Underpants movie to have less toilet humour is missing the point but regardless there is simply little to keep parents and teens satisfied. Using the unique charm of the books, Captain Underpants’ movie adaptation is licence for DreamWorks to experiment with different animation styles, the imagination of our young protagonists George and Harold transforming the film into a flip book or even a world inhabited by sock puppets. This is integral to the tongue in cheek style of the movie, our leads frequently interrupting events to offer commentary and laugh at themselves; throwing children in the audience right into the film alongside them playing pranks and saving the day. The art direction in general is beautiful; very stylised and simplistic, its perfect for creating a fast paced and kinetic film while being true to the illustrations of Dav Pilkeys novels.
An entertaining and visually interesting film, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie may not have the same emotional impact of its competitors but the passion and heart that went into making a loyal and enjoyable adaptation is obvious. As a film for children, it will keep them happy and laughing for 89 mins while maybe just inspiring the creative potential in them.