Captain Underpants

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 2, 2017

'Captain Underpants'
'Captain Underpants'  

There's something to be admired about potty humor done right. For kids, it's jokes about farts and other bodily fluids and functions that bring out the juvenile chuckles. In the R-rated realm, Hollywood's contemporary dick joke comedies and raunchy affairs drive this mindset to a more adult-oriented degree. Either way, there's a method to doing it right -- it's what makes a penis gag in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" hilarious while a similarly-minded gag in "Baywatch" falls limp. Toilet humor for the mere sake of it rarely works, and ultimately ends up smelling like farts rather than making a joke at flatulence's expense.

All this being said, it makes sense that Nicolas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall," the "Neighbors" films) is the screenwriter behind bringing a long-awaited "Captain Underpants" story to the big screen, in "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie."

For those unaware, the "Captain Underpants" books were likely every millennial's introduction to potty humor. These unapologetically silly stories, by American author and illustrator Dav Pilkey, were popular items at Scholastic Book Fairs in elementary schools around the country. The books contained a blend of very particular comedy, quirky characters and enough body-function-related puns to make your head spin. There was also "Flip-o-Rama," where readers were invited to animate their own action sequences by flipping back and forth between two pages of different illustrations.

Stoller, right down to his own "Flip-o-Rama" action sequence, captures the spirit and folly of Pilkey's original stories with a blast of unadulterated exuberance. Call me nostalgic, but I was essentially inseparable from the children during the advanced screening of this film. And call me juvenile, but this is likely the funniest American comedy I've watched thus far in 2017.

Like the books, the story introduces us to George Beard and Harold Hutchins (voiced by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch, respectively), an aspiring author/illustrator combo who spend their days pulling pranks at school, sitting in the dreaded Principal Krupp's (Ed Helms) office, then taking off to their treehouse studio to work on their beloved "Captain Underpants" comic series, about a superhero who dons nothing but a red cape and white underwear.

When a joke involving a mail-order hypnosis ring goes awry, Principal Krupp ends up under the hypnotic control of George and Harold, and they use this influence to turn him into their own heroic creation. Good timing, too, because the nefarious Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) has infiltrated the elementary school (which is honorably named Jerome Horwitz Elementary, after the birth name of Curly Howard from "The Three Stooges") with a plan to destroy all human laughter since his name is always the butt of everyone's jokes.

But, can you blame them for laughing? The sincere, celebratory backbone of "Captain Underpants" is this idea that laughter is a magical thing, even if you're chuckling at the lowest class of comedy. If someone farts and your immediate reaction is of disgust, perhaps "Captain Underpants" isn't the flick for you. Otherwise, this is beautifully escapist immaturity.