Captain Underpants

If the title isn’t enough of a hint, Captain Underpants also features a villain named Professor Poopypants whose primary mode of transportation is a giant toilet.

However, while crude humor rules the day in this animated adventure, there’s also a good-natured playfulness that provides some solid laughs above the belt.

It follows precocious best friends George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), linked by their affinity for comic books and their mutual desire to make life miserable for the hot-tempered principal at their elementary school, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). Think of a pint-sized Ferris Bueller or Bart Simpson, times two.

When one of their pranks crosses the line, Krupp arranges to separate George and Harold into different classes, effectively ending their friendship. In a last-ditch effort, the duo hypnotizes Krupp using a ring from a cereal box, turning him into Captain Underpants, a dim-witted superhero from one of their treehouse comic strips.

As they struggle to control their principal’s dual identity and keep it secret, they must also contend with an evil new science teacher (Nick Kroll) with an elaborate scheme that threatens the fun for everybody.

The target demographic comprises those who will best identify with the film’s mischievous, prepubescent protagonists. But some scattered sight gags and one-liners should connect with accompanying adults, who might even find a nostalgic connection with their own hellraising days.

The screenplay by Nicholas Stoller (Neighbors) doesn’t dwell on parental wisdom or didactic life lessons, although it does function as a simple tale of the value of boyhood friendships and the power of imagination.

As directed by David Soren (Turbo), the film showcases an amusing mix of computer-generated animation styles with hand-drawn roots, especially during the infrequent comic-book sequences.

The result is thin and predictable, and relies too heavily on its low-brow tendencies, yet succeeds on its own modest terms. Still, the goofy premise yields a sense of constant chaos that becomes exhausting after a while.

Don’t expect Captain Underpants to make the cut as a classroom time-waster. While youngsters should appreciate the rambunctious chemistry between the two charismatic leads, overzealous school disciplinarians might not. At least it’s brief.


Rated PG, 89 minutes.