written by David Steffen
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a computer animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation that was released in June 2017 in the US, based on the long-running book children’s book humor superhero series.
George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) are the 4th-grade comic book authors who created Captain Underpants, who is pretty much Superman except all of his powers are toilet-related and instead of wearing a cape and underwear on top of his clothes, he wears a cape and underwear on top of nothing. They’re known for being the class clowns, always pulling pranks on the teachers, and the principal Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms) is always looking for a way to bring them down a notch. Mr. Krupp decides to pull the ultimate power move and split them into separate fourth grade class with the intention of destroying their friendship. Desperate, the boys sneak into his office to try to prevent this, and when they’re caught in the act George uses a toy hypno-ring which (surprising them both), actually hypnotizes Mr. Krupp. They plant a suggestion that Mr. Krupp is actually Captain Underpants. They discover that whenever he is touched by water he becomes Mr. Krupp, and whenever he hears a finger snap he turns into Captain Underpants, and so to keep their friendship intact they keep him as Captain Underpants pretending to be Mr. Krupp.
But Captain Underpants keeps trying to cause problems, always tending to lose his pants, and trying to rush off into danger, and his happy demeanor is so different from the grumpy Mr. Krupp. Before the boys can stop him, he hires mad scientist Professor P (Nick Kroll) to the faculty, who soon makes his evil intentions clear.
Keeping in mind that I am in my mid-thirties and thus quite a ways away from the target demographic, I thought this movie was pretty fun, and I’m sure it’s a hit with the kids with all the poop and underwear. I’m not at all familiar with the source material, but we picked it up as a rental to watch with a four year old, and he loved it.
So keeping all that in mind, I found the protagonists honestly pretty terrible, terrorizing the teachers and then acting surprised when the principal wants to do something about it. When they realize that they’ve hypnotized the teacher I can understand them being excited at succeeding at stalling the principal’s plan, and at the immediate sense of control, but they apparently have no remorse over completely stealing this man’s life and replacing his mind with a comic book character, only getting upset at Captain Underpants’s behavior when they are afraid of being caught in the act. And the entire crisis was based on the premise that splitting them into two different fourth-grade classrooms would destroy their friendship. But their biggest point of bonding was making comics, which they did in their treehouse after school. I don’t think that every kid’s movie has to have an overexplained moralistic story, but I do think that the themes and ethics involved in the story should be considered, because kids pick that stuff up. So I guess I’ll file this one with Trolls under “problematic themes that no one else seems that worried about”.