The first Captain Underpants book came out in 1997. It's comic book style and juvenile humour appealed to kids everywhere, myself included, and through its never ending sequels and endless poop puns, a fan base was spawned. In the early 2000s, this film would've killed at the box office. Every child that ever was would've forced their parents to venture out into the dark, brooding, popcorn smelling (if you're lucky) cinema to watch their favourite book series come to life. Instead, it's 2017, and this film is about a decade too late. But embracing my childhood, and what was perhaps my first introduction to the world of comic books (that's an unconfirmed fact but it wouldn't surprise me), I went out and saw this film. And I dug it a whole lot more than I thought I would.
It’s a plot that’s about as juvenile and unappealing as they come, jam packed with a plethora of pee, poo and fart jokes, but it’s screenwriter Nicholas Stoller’s self aware humour that makes this morning show program of an idea work. He elevates the source material into something accessible for all, which is an incredibly hard task when your plot has a giant, radioactive toilet terrorizing the town. It’s full of fourth wall breaks and self-parody, all while embracing the goofiness of the premise without disrespecting what makes kids love it so much. There are plenty of thematic undertones relating to friendship, love, doing the right thing, being a kid, the flawed school system, what makes a hero, looking at things from a different side and the current state of cinema. It’s wild.
Thankfully, however, this animation style lends a helping hand into allowing the audience to believe that Kevin Hart, aged 38, and Thomas Middleditch, aged 35, can pull off the squeaky voices of a primary school kid. Every character is played by somebody in their late 30s or 40s, and while it’s distracting half the time, the other half plays out to hilarious, gut bursting results. It’s middle-aged adults joking about whoopee cushions, yet the film embraces its potty humour as the lowest form of comedy (that’s an actual line in the movie) and delivers some of the best potty humour ever put to screen. A lot of it is aimed more towards kids, consequently making older audiences relate to Jordan Peele’s stuck-up Melvin, but for every joke that falls flat, the next one ends up working.
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