MOVIE REVIEW: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

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”.



written by David Steffen

Sing is a 2016 Illumination Entertainment animated musical comedy about an animal singing competition.  Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), owner of the Moon theater, is on the verge of bankruptcy, but makes one last try at success to save his lifelong dream of running a successful theater:  a singing competition with a prize of $1000, which is slightly more cash than he actually has in hand.  Except, due to a clerical error by his assistant, the posters for the competition indicate that the cash prize is actually $100,000, so the contest draws a lot more notice than he expected.

Among others it draws the attention of devoted mother and pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) who has always dreamed of a singing career but who has been busy raising her 25 children, jazz busking mouse Mike (Seth McFarlane), punk rock porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), British gang gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), expansive German dancing pig Gunther (Nick Kroll), and stage fright-crippled elephant Meena (Tori Kelly).  Buster doesn’t discover the clerical error in the posters until after the first round of auditions are over, but he decides to stick with the competition, despite having no plan to pay anyone.

The song list for the movie is very long, between full length songs and one-line clips from the first round of auditions (from characters who don’t make it through), lots of catchy stuff to tap your foot along to.  There are several really good character storylines from these singing dreamers who want to get the big break that will change their lives forever–I particularly liked Johnny, and also Ash, as far as the singers themselves go.  Johnny’s final song in particular I found really moving.

My favorite character wasn’t even a singer.  I quite liked the character of Ms. Crawly, the elderly iguana who is working as Buster’s assistant (the one who made the clerical error that started it all).  I feel like the movie treats her as comic relief, using her glass eye, slow gait, and other infirmities as a focus of comedy (I wanted to slap the scriptwriter whenever her eye randomly popped out and started causing trouble) but I found her a relatable character.  Throughout the movie she works hard to do her job, despite the obvious physical problems, she never complains and never gives up, one of those women who quietly labors behind the scenes to make a place of business work smoothly as possible with little attention from her employers.

My only real complaint (apart from the overplayed use of Ms. Crawly’s infirmities as comic relief) was that it was one of those movies where almost all of the best comedy material was in the preview.  If you saw the preview, thought it was hilarious, and want to see more, just keep in mind you’ve probably already seen the best stuff.  The rest of the movie is good, but not good on a level as the material in the preview.  If you didn’t think the preview was hilarious, then this movie’s probably not for you, at least in terms of comedy.  I really wish movies wouldn’t do that, that they would make an effort to make the preview representative rather than to use up all the good stuff in the preview, but I guess that’s the nature of Hollywood marketing.