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Review: Humor in ‘Captain Underpants’ very elementary

Harold (voiced by Thomas Middleditch, left) and George (Kevin Hart) crack up at the sight Captain Underpants (Ed Helms) in “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.”
Harold (voiced by Thomas Middleditch, left) and George (Kevin Hart) crack up at the sight Captain Underpants (Ed Helms) in “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.” Courtesy of 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 sun 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 remains 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 hijinks 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.

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. A simple story leaves more time for silly jokes and lighthearted humor.

The film’s lone weakness is that it’s extremely male-dominated with only a few female characters, such as the lunch lady. But this is not that different from the books.

That’s only a small problems with what is generally a fun movie experience as long as you’re willing to laugh at schoolyard humor. There are a few jokes aimed at adults, but the best way to fully appreciate “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” is to sit back and be a kid.

‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie’

1/2

Rated: PG for rude humor

Starring the voices of: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele

Directed by: David Soren

Showing at: Chisholm Trail 8 (Newton), Derby Plaza, Hutchinson Mall 8, Movie Machine, Starlite Drive-in, Warren East, Warren West

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