As hinted by my Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie trailer review, I was ecstatic about Dav Pilkey’s beloved book series achieving its chance to become a big screen production. The Dreamworks super flick caught the eye of enough family-friendly audiences for it to rake in over $23 million in its opening weekend. After seeing it myself, it was clear that the film added layers of good and bad to the children’s series.
Hollywood has been infamous for disregarding a book’s true purpose in exchange for profiting off a fanbase. This trope is not the case for Captain Underpants: The First Movie. Numerous elements that made Pilkey’s books endearing to readers were successfully highlighted within the film. The imaginative nature and loyal bond behind George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Thomas Middleditch) immediately shined and pivoted the tale in the right direction. Even the differing personalities of the overtly malicious Mr. Krupp and his naively heroic alter ego Captain Underpants (both voiced by Ed Helms) fantastically complement another.
The animation choices in this film, too, deserve praise. I can hardly verbalize how wide I smiled when they opened the film with George and Harold’s comic drawings complete with uneven shading and flawed spelling. Though some animation switches came across as random jump cuts at first, the film did well to justify their reason for occurring.
I also was pleasantly surprised by all the levels of humor within the film. Despite the expected potty humor and fourth wall breaks, there were clever one-liners that offered both humor and insight (cue Professor P’s rant about teachers’ real reason for being grumps).
Speaking of adding character to Mr. Krupp, there was one film decision I genuinely could have lived without: Edith. Now, fans of the book know Edith as Mr. Krupp’s naggy school secretary who often thwarts or suffers from George and Harold’s wacky misadventures. Though the series’ secretary does appear in the film, a new Edith takes on a more prominent role. Dreamworks’ Edith, voiced by Kristen Schaal, is an introverted lunch lady at Jerome Horwitz Elementary School with a soft spot for Mr. Krupp.
Did I hate her character? No. On her own, she’s actually a charming addition to the Captain Underpants universe. It was refreshing to see a quirky, down-to-earth personality among the otherwise strictly narrow-minded faculty. My disinterest in her role stems from the blatant fact that she was created for the purpose of a love cliche. Since her development didn’t expand beyond shyly swooning over Krupp, it limited her appeal.
An additional qualm I had with the movie was its need to overemphasize Professor Poopypants’ evil persona. For the most part, his exaggerated lust for vengeance offered great moments of comedy (my personal favorite is his résumé description). However, the backstory for Professor Poopypants (voiced by Nick Kroll) bothered me.
Referring back to the book, Professor P sought out revenge against kids because the kid’s teasing and his inability to gain respect leads Professor P to snap into revenge mode. In the film, they add an extra layer to Professor P by having his moment of glory ruined by his name making the Nobel Prize science community laugh.
Though it adds to the layer of Professor P’s hardships, it minimizes the reason he’s so unruly towards the elementary school students. The kids do laugh at him upon his first day, but he’s already emulating the ego of a vengeful mad scientist. In other words, his motive of attacking the kids is diminished since the Nobel Prize ceremony fiasco was clearly worse in comparison to the kids’ actions.
If you’re an avid Pilkey fan or in need of a nostalgic fix of childhood fun, then it would be to our benefit to fly to the next showing of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.