He wears a cape and un­der­pants

The mis­chief-mak­ers of Jerome Hor­witz El­e­men­tary are run­ning wild in a new Netf lix series.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - ROBERT LLOYD TELE­VI­SION CRITIC robert.lloyd@latimes.com

“The Epic Tales of Cap­tain Un­der­pants,” born as a series of mas­sively suc­cess­ful books by Dav Pilkey, has be­come a charm­ingly sub­ver­sive, knock­about car­toon series now stream­ing on Net­flix.

Last year saw a bigscreen adap­ta­tion, the com­puter-an­i­mated “Cap­tain Un­der­pants: The First Epic Movie,” but the series, also from DreamWorks An­i­ma­tion, is closer to the mul­ti­form meta-fic­tional spirit of the books, which are as for­mally close to ex­per­i­men­tal lit­er­a­ture as books for el­e­men­tary school kids ever get; when it wants to break into a third di­men­sion, it brings in clay fig­ures or felt pup­pets or cutouts on Pop­si­cle sticks.

In­tro­duced at the top of each episode, as they are at the top of the books, are Ge­orge Beard (Ra­mone Hamil­ton) and Harold Hutchins (Jay Grag­nani).

“Ge­orge is the kid with the tie and the flat top; Harold is the one with the Tshirt and the bad hair­cut. Re­mem­ber that now,” says nar­ra­tor Sean Astin.

They are prank-lov­ing fourth-grade stu­dents at Jerome Hor­witz El­e­men­tary, where they are the prin­ci­pal neme­ses of the school prin­ci­pal, Mr. Krupp (Nat Faxon), who sits be­hind a desk bear­ing the sign “Hope Dies Here” and is tal­ly­ing their in­frac­tions, as num­bers are called at a del­i­catessen counter; when they get to 500, he can ex­pel them.

More sig­nif­i­cant, they have in­ad­ver­tently hyp­no­tized Krupp into be­com­ing, at the snap of their fin­gers, a su­per­hero named Cap­tain Un­der­pants — he wears only un­der­pants and a cape; other pairs of un­der­pants, pulled from the elas­tic waist­band of his tight, white Jockey-style shorts, are used as weapons. (Water turns him back to Krupp.) This is all cov­ered in the theme song, which Astin will point out (and re­play) in case you weren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion.

The Cap­tain comes in use­ful when with episodic re­li­a­bil­ity, through var­i­ous sci­ence-fic­tional ac­ci­dents that are more than likely our he­roes’ own fault, the fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters of an el­e­men­tary school ex­is­tence are trans­formed into mon­sters bent on de­struc­tion, or at least on giv­ing out home­work. These en­coun­ters are some­times pre­dicted, not in a mag­i­cal way, by the comic books Ge­orge and Her­bert draw in their tree house.

And these are facts you may al­ready know. You or some­one re­lated to you may have grown up on them, or grown young on them, as the case may be. The series has sold many tens of mil­lions of books in 20 lan­guages, rais­ing ob­jec­tions among the eas­ily scan­dal­ized along the way, for be­ing funny about things kids find funny. Imag­ine Dick and Jane, say, break­ing wind. (Run, Spot, run!) That sort of thing. The first episode is ti­tled “The Fren­zied Farts of Flabby Flab­u­lous,” so there you are.

Over­seen by Peter Hast­ings (“An­i­ma­ni­acs,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Kung Fu Panda: Leg­ends of Awe­some­ness”), the show plays off some of the vis­ual world­build­ing of the movie but is pre­sented in a 2-D style more ap­pro­pri­ate to Pilkey’s jaunty draw­ings and more than usu­ally rem­i­nis­cent of clas­sic cel an­i­ma­tion, with bold out­lines and bright, an­gu­lar, askew back­grounds.

Noth­ing serves chil­dren bet­ter on the road to ma­tu­rity — I say this as a one­time child fairly happy with how he turned out — than let­ting them know that the world is as ab­surd as they sus­pect it is and that much of what has been con­structed upon it is ar­bi­trary and even stupid.

Like the books, which reg­u­larly is­sue warn­ings to the view­ers of some­thing po­ten­tially dis­taste­ful ahead — per­haps a kind of trolling of the series’ crit­ics — the car­toon keeps calling at­ten­tion to the terms of its own con­struc­tion, with lines like “We can’t ac­tu­ally show the col­li­sion be­cause that’s not nice, but we can show you this big cloud of smoke and stuff drawn in an elab­o­rate anime style — so cool,” and ref­er­ences to “the red table­cloth clev­erly estab­lished ear­lier in the scene.”

The hu­mor is smart and silly, qual­i­ties more closely linked than adult so­ci­ety likes to give out. (The show has some­thing of the feel of “If ‘Rocky and Bull­win­kle’ and ‘Ned’s De­clas­si­fied School Sur­vival Guide’ had a baby,” which, I know, could not hap­pen.)

There is a joke about “Iffype­dia, the Free, Yet Very Ques­tion­able In­ter­net En­cy­clo­pe­dia,” and a series of hellish school dances with names like “Night of Magic Spell­ing Dic­ta­tion,” “Mid­night Stan­dard­ized Place­ment Test Jam­boree” and “En­chanted Wait­ing Room.” One of the boys fills out a 10,000-word paper by sign­ing it with 2,011 mid­dle names. So, he got caught. What­ever! There’s al­ways to­mor­row.

This is good, healthy stuff.

‘The Epic Tales of Cap­tain Un­der­pants’ Where: Net­flix When: Any time Rated: TV-Y7 (may be un­suit­able for chil­dren younger than 7)

Netf lix

STU­DENTS Ge­orge and Harold con­tend with their prin­ci­pal-turned-su­per­hero in Netf lix’s “The Epic Tales of Cap­tain Un­der­pants.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.