A hypnotising effect on hero
For their 35th feature length animation, DreamWorks studios have gone down the superhero route – sort of.
The Muppets writer and Bad Neighbours director Nicholas Stoller adapts a screenplay based on the children’s novel series by author Dav Pilkey that follows the adventures of the wonderfully named titular protagonist.
It’s an origin story that sees imaginative pranksters George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) hypnotise their moody principal Mr Krupp (Ed Helms) into believing he is the daring superhero of the comic books the pair have written.
Long-term DreamWorks collaborator David Soren helms his second movie, after average 2013 cartoon Turbo, and his sophomore effort is aimed squarely at ankle-biters.
That’s not to say there’s nothing for us adults to enjoy, though, as Soren and his animation team film in a creative style, utilising everything from comic strips, flip charts and even a sock puppet sequence.
The editing is as frenetic as a kite in a hurricane and. like its younger target audience, the film rarely sits still.
George and Harold do a lot of fourth wallbreaking talking to the camera in the style of Woody Allen in Annie Hall and Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – there’s a couple of vintage references for mums and dads to sink their teeth into!
Hart’s role is one of his least annoying as he’s forced to tone down his often overbearing comedic style and Helms is equally adept at voicing a cranky school principal as he is a delusional, pants-wearing wannabe hero – sometimes within seconds of each other in the same scene.
Nick Kroll lends his nasally tones to bad guy Professor Poopypants, who is terrible at trying to hide his evil agenda; trying to wipe out all of the laughter in the world.
Your funny bone won’t be given a vigorous workout with Captain Underpants, but Stoller does live up to his pretty stellar comedic background at times.
Some gags – a ‘trapped’ mime, relentless name-mocking – have been done before but there are other clever jokes, like ridiculing the cost of expensive action set-pieces and a running gag about the school secretary being on hold on the phone longer than someone trying to get an electrician out to the house when the TV is on the blink.
Themes of young friendship being tested and the power of imagination will resonate with kids and Captain Underpants is the perfect school summer holiday flick for primary pupils to lap up.
It may not transcend into age-no-barrier animation favourite territory, but right up until the manic ending it’s a guilty pleasure that proves to be a welcome 90-minute distraction from more serious life.
After all, it’s not every day you see a giant toilet going on a rampage!
Brief encounter Captain Underpants in action