DreamWorks Animation is back with a new film, and what can we say about this little animation company, soon to celebrate a successful 20-year run? They’ve come an exceedingly long way since their first animated feature, Antz, in 1998, a film that felt so forced to catch up with Pixar (who released A Bug’s Life around the same time amid a feud between the two companies) many wrote them off before they’d barely begun. The Prince of Egypt didn’t do them any favours at the time either, though both were commercial successes (not the same could be said for The Road to El Dorado, however). It wasn’t until their first stop-motion animation, 2000’s Chicken Run, where the tide seemed to turn.
Chicken Run set the standard for the overall feel good movies that DreamWorks Animation would go onto creating, and 32 feature films later, sitting rather comfortably next to its How to Train Your Dragon franchise, comes Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.
OK, so is the film any good? Well, I can say with a resounding yes that this is a family treat for the senses. From the moment I sat down with the family to watch it, I was hooked. Its sharp, fast and energetic tones kept me awake throughout, its commitment to breaking the fourth wall and never taking itself to seriously was also wonderful.
The film, based on Dav Pilkey‘s wonderful children series, sees two primary school best friends George Beard and Harold Hutchins (played energetically by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch), creating a comic strip called Captain Underpants in their own backyard cubby house, with bright eyes and determination keeping them going. The kids take their work to school and spread the love and prankster life to cheer up all the depressed and gloomy students, thanks to the disturbing tight regime the school principal Mr Krupp (Ed Helms dealing with some seriously awesome multiple personality issues here) holds above them all.
Just as the two boys are about to be separated from each other for good, Mr Krupp is somehow hypnotised from a Hypno-ring the boys find inside a cereal box (it’s from a children’s book, common sense does not prevail here), and their creation of Captain Underpants comes to life through none other than Mr Krupp himself. Throwing off his clothes and wig and becoming a completely different upbeat and positive superhero… or at least, he thinks he is.
I loved the twist in formula the movie makes with seeing such an angry and lonely teacher become an absolute delight with a literal click of a finger. It’s far from perfect, however; it’s not until the evil Professor P (Nick Kroll) arrives that the movie takes a not so original formulaic turn and runs a single concept into the ground throughout the second half of the film. Suffice to say, Nick Kroll’s Professor has some of the funniest lines in the film, but the whole evil villain thing is just too hard on the nose for me, especially the over-the-top plan that has something to do with taking over the chemistry of brain pieces and not to mention some of the forced breaking into song pieces just don’t fit well here.
Thankfully, it is saved by a final few minutes of heart and some great messages for the young and old in all of us. Captain Underpants will, I hope, see a few more films to come from the beloved kids book series. I hope it sticks to its fourth wall breaking shenanigans when it does and brings a lot of new young fans along with it.
I may even run around in my underwear the next time I watch it, hell, we only live once right? Bring on more Captain Underpants and do the right thing, take the whole family to catch something quite original this school holidays, you won’t be disappointed you did!
Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is in cinemas from today.