NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF UNDERPANTS
* * * 1/2 (out of four)
“Implausible, juvenile and filled with the lowest form of wit: Bathroom humor.”
That’s the grouchy, fun-hating Principal Krupp in “Captain Underpants” -- describing hand-drawn comics by protagonists George and Harold, two fourth-graders who specialize in pranks, mayhem and fomenting laughter among their miserable, drudged-out fellow students.
Of course, Krupp’s denunciation also describes the movie itself -- a rollicking, irreverent and often very funny tale based on the wildly popular series of kids’ books written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey.
The well-reviewed film -- already destined to be a modest box-office hit -- has the two trouble-makers hypnotizing their surly administrator so that he thinks he’s a bulbous superhero whose entire uniform consists of a red cape and a glowing pair of tighty-whities. He has zero superpowers, and about as much intelligence; but he is cheerful, compliant and seemingly indestructible.
“Captain Underpants” is the kind of gleefully sophomoric movie with character names like Professor Poopypants and dialog such as: “Faster than a speeding waistband; more powerful than a pair of boxer shorts; able to leap tall buildings without getting a wedgie.”
If you dislike this sort of thing -- if, need I say it, you are seriously Krupp-like -- then you should steer clear of George and Harold. If on the other hand you still remember how funny fart jokes were at age eight -- and if you don’t mind laughing out loud along with an audience of happy grade-schoolers -- then “Captain Underpants” is an awful lot of fun. I imagine this is especially true for young dads who still get a bang out of whoopee cushions and who like to urge their unwitting progeny to “pull my finger.”
The film, of course, is computer-animated, and nicely voiced by Ed Helms (Krupp), Thomas Middleditch (Harold) and especially Kevin Hart as George; the villainous Poopypants is played by the film’s script-writer, Nick Kroll -- who also penned the recent “Storks”; the talented character actor Kristen Schaal helps add a modicum of humanity to the proceedings as a lunch-lady with a somewhat inexplicable Krupp-crush.
The film hustles along through its chaotic 89 minutes, and its vibrant visuals benefit from a few non-CGI moments, including the boys’ comically clunky drawings, a flip-book device adapted from Pilkey and a stop-motion scene with actual sock-puppets.
After an hour or so of this nonsense, even a veteran raspberry-blower like me might question the value of a film so patently silly, low-brow and ridiculous; but it sure is funny. And unlike many such films, it doesn’t have a mean or angry bone in its body.
So if you’re tempted to pooh-pooh such fare (sorry -- couldn’t resist), then I’m afraid I must quote one more line from the movie:
“Never underestimate the power of underpants.”