I’ve addressed this a bit in the past but sometimes it does feel like many kids films are actually aiming themselves more at adults now. After all, I adored Inside Out because of all of its depth and emotion but I do wonder if that went over the heads of most kids and that they would have enjoyed the silliness of Penguins of Madagascar much more. It’s an interesting debate to have because many critics insist we are in a golden age of animation, even though more people saw The Emoji Movie than The Red Turtle. But can we all enjoy the purely aimed for kids Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie?
George (Kevin Hart, Ride Along) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch, The Wolf of Wall Street) are pranksters who are constantly at war with their elementary school principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms, The Hangover). However they eventually go too far and when Krupp decides to put them into separate classrooms, George decides to hypnotize Krupp and turn him into the comic book hero they created, Captain Underpants.
With a name like that, you can expect this movie to not really care about appealing to adults. No, instead of slipping in the odd more mature joke to please the parents, this movie realizes that they aren’t paying attention and mentally checked out as soon as they entered the screening. Instead, they are aiming every bit of this at children and that is where their humor is at. So if you can’t handle a lot of lowbrow humor surrounding farts and things of that nature, well this movie is not for you. The villain is called Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll, The League), that’s where this movie is. Personally, I can take or leave this sort of humor. So some of the jokes did make me titter, I was 5-years-old at one point, while some made me realize that I’ve matured quite a bit since I thought Pokemon was the best show on television.
However, I do feel that this does go too far at times. The bits which made me laugh were the switching of personalities between the very angry and strict Mr Krupp and the silly and irrelevant Captain Underpants. However while the film does do a lot of that, it is the potty humor which is the focus. And this is fine for a bit, but eventually, even these jokes do grow tired and I can’t imagine kids having much longer patience than me with them. A bit of a lowbrow humor is fine, but even the film remarks that it’s perhaps relying too much on fart gags. Maybe instead of inserting a bit of meta-humor, go over the script again and have a go again at fart gag #65.
The film is at least very energetic so it should keep a child’s attention very easily. The movie does slow down at times for some emotional reveals, but for the most parts, it keeps going at a very quick pace designed to make sure the children in the audience don’t gaze longingly at their mum’s iPad. There is always something going on whether that be jokes or action. And while in many films this can get annoying because it can feel as if the movie needs Ritalin, there is enough control from the director David Soren (Turbo) to make sure you don’t get a headache.
I do have my frustrations with the animation though. Technically, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s clean, the style works well with the quick pace that the movie has. It’s also pretty colourful as well. It’s just not the standard I expect from animated movies in 2017. You just have to look at the likes of Cars 3 and The LEGO Movie to see that even movies not really aiming to beautiful can be brilliant to look at and that’s not even approaching the ones that really do make an effort to be especially stunning. This film looks more like a TV show than a movie. Maybe that is on purpose, it does seem like this would translate into decent Saturday morning fare, but it does downgrade its big screen appeal.
But the thing that tides this movie though is the energy it has. The movie knows it’s silly and probably won’t live that long in the memory so it’s tough to grade it on the same scale as Inside Out, but it does get how to entertain kids for an hour and a half. It’s characters all have larger than life personalities and are memorable because of it. Yes, it’s very unrealistic that a principal would be as evil and nasty as Mr. Krupp is here. But this film is one where a ring you get out of a cereal box can actually hypnotize people, so it can get away with making him such an enjoyable foil. It’s this sort of exaggeration that makes it enjoyable.
If you are looking for that truly amazing animated film that 2017 needs, you won’t find it with Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. What you will get is an enjoyable kids film that isn’t trying to be much more than that. Yes, I adore animated movies which are full of depth and are looking to get themselves into the end of year Top Ten lists, heck I listed Inside Out as the best film in 2015. But sometimes you need a movie is very childish and just wants to make children titter for an hour and a half. And while I do like this movie and think it’s solid enough, I think kids will enjoy Captain Underpants much more.