By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
DreamWorks adaptation of Dav Pilkey‘s Captain Underpants, The First Epic Movie is deserving of one half juvenile delinquency at its finest and the other, I don’t get it. The humour can garner giggles to a very select crowd of young boys but for everyone else who are not familiar with the source material, this film is better off skipped.
I admire this studio’s original work and many adaptations because the writing teams often create a well-meaning tale about relationships. Whether that’s between unlikely personalities, family members or brothers in arms, the joy is in seeing how the bond becomes firm. Underpants is a tale about two mischief fourth graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins, dealing with elementary school life. They try to brighten up life there because the place feels like it should belong in Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and they also fear where their friendship will go if the mean principal, Mr. Krupp, separates them.
Although they can spend their time in their shared tree house after school as much as they want, the fact the best time of their life (pulling off pranks) during academic learning is threatened is half the film. While they manage to hypnotize Krupp to become the seminal comic book hero they created, little do they know a twisted villain — a new science teacher — is about to change every kid’s life forever because he lacks the ability to understand toilet humour.
The challenge this film faced is with the balancing of the many subplots. Not all of them neatly tie together. I do enjoy how George and Harold’s rival, Melvin (pictured right), gets mixed up in the mess, but I do wonder if the three can become mutual friends later in life. This movie’s heart is in the right place — to make friends with the supposed enemy than control. The content is only good for those willing to embrace their inner child. The movie is goofy and absurd. I thought I was watching The Banana Splits (this film is that weirdly kinetic) meets Saved By The Bell (specifically in Zack’s breaking the fourth wall and dealings with Mr. Belding).
This film’s saving grace is with the mixed media approach to tell the story. The flip-book approach to advance the tale and use of sock puppets are a surprise. This technique is rarely used these days and while it works better on television, I would not be surprised if this new franchise will soon be headed to Netflix.
3 Stars out of 5