The many jokes are elementary in ‘Underpants’

From left, Harold and George crack up at the sight of Captain Underpants.
From left, Harold and George crack up at the sight of Captain Underpants. DreamWorks Animation

“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is childish and silly. Of course, anyone of the animated feature film’s target audience who has read one of the 70 million books sold around the world featuring the rotund hero and the elementary students who created him know that already.

The important thing is that while the production never reaches for intellectual grandeur, it is on a very basic level one of the funniest movies of the year. If you still giggle when someone mentions the seventh planet from the son is Uranus, then get ready to blow some laugh snot bubbles. If that planetary joke comes across as crass, then either skip the movie or lighten up a little.

The film follows relatively closely to the series of books written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey. Director David Soren opts to use a little higher quality computer-generated style of animation, but while it gives the characters more substance, the essence of the characters and stories remain true to the source.

The fruit of the lunacy starts with George and Harold (voiced with great childish glee by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch), two elementary school buddies who spend more time pulling pranks than studying. It’s as if the pair are kindred spirits to Bart Simpson. The big difference is that the two best buds are also the masterminds behind a series of comics featuring Captain Underpants, a hero who fights evil dressed in only his tighty whities.

All of their high jinks and the time spent on creating the comic books have attracted the wrath of the school’s principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). His plan is to split the friends by putting them in different classes, but before he can make the move, George and Harold hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing he’s Captain Underpants. This proves helpful when the school gets a mad scientist, Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), as the new science teacher. It’s only Poopypants’ day job as he has a diabolical scheme to end all laughter that will start with the students at the Jerome Horwitz Elementary School.

Casting Hart was a superb move as he always brings an energy to his acting roles that is on the same level as a third grader eating a bag of sugar for dinner. Soren gives Hart just enough room to make his voice work without going too far.

Middleditch, Helms and Kroll also turn in solid work but the sparkplug of this production is Hart.

Nicholas Stoller’s screenplay (he wrote the script for the funny “Storks”) never gets more complicated than good vs. evil. That’s in step with the books and keeps the movie from falling into a plot funk such as was the case with “The Boss Baby.” A simple story leaves more time for silly jokes and light-hearted humor.

Face it. You can’t have a story with a character named Poppypants and bog it down with intricate plot twists and layered stories.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie


Cast: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele

Director: David Soren

84 minutes

Rated PG (rude humor)