You know, sometimes a popular type of film, a genre if you will, can get a bit tired. For me, the superhero genre has become very repetitive. In most of these films, there is a standard of predictable villains and a big, end-of-the-world finale that has become predictable and, honestly, unremarkable in these types of films. This does not make them any less enjoyable, especially to the average, casual moviegoer; but for me, I would like a little variety in the six to ten superhero movies that come out each and every year. However, there are exceptions. Just this year saw the releases of 'The Lego Batman Movie (2017)', a hilarious and energized parody of the famed Caped Crusader, and 'Logan (2017)', a haunting neo-western and an emotionally mature conclusion to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. And I am glad to say that 'Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (2017)' is another fresh take on the worn-out formula.
This movie already had a difficult situation ahead of it; it had to open against the highly anticipated and highly acclaimed DC film 'Wonder Woman (2017)'. But what this movie has going for it are three key elements: it’s self-aware sense of humor, it’s animation style, and the pure positive spirit behind it. Let’s actually start with the animation style. The film is based on a very successful children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. Therefore, there was a built-in fanbase that has been waiting for this since they were little kids (including me, I might add!). And the animation does really well in a balance between a professional look but still with the feel of the cartoon.
In terms of the film’s overall spirit, the film itself is just a fun time. I am aware this is said too much, but the humor is funny for people of all ages. There was a middle-aged father sitting in front of me, and he was dying laughing, even harder than me. The movie knows what it is: a silly kid’s animation predicated on the concept of what is commonly referred to as "potty humor". And the filmmakers knew that. They do not beat you over the head with the jokes for the kids, and they’re clever enough for the parents to get just as much of a kick out of it. There are times that George and Harold, the protagonists of the story, look and talk to the camera to tell a side-story in a completely different animation style; it was actually very refreshing. And that also adds to the film’s spirit, which I cannot stress is enough, is just a breathe of fresh air. The voice cast is terrific; Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch bring to life these really rambunctious but loving children. They’re timing and voicework, along with Ed Helms’s over-the-top performance as Principal Krupp/Captain Underpants, made for a very entertaining cast.
Now my only negative, and this a minor critique that really did not affect the film, for me at least, was the pacing. As we flew through this adventure, it was going so fast that you barely had time to take a breath. Now for a lot of moviegoers, this will not detract from the film. But for some, it may go by too fast to catch elements of the story that they had just started to get invested. For example, Professor P (you'll find out his real name when you watch it), our very obvious antagonist, just seems to come in purely for the purpose of his pure villainy. And like that, his evil plot begins and ends. But all being said, this is a fresh take on a tired genre that, with a lights-out voice cast, brilliant animation, and a hilariously self-aware sense of humor, succeeds as one of the best animated films of the year so far. I am going to give the movie an "8 out of 10".
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