Captain Underpants (3 stars)

Captain Underpants

Kids will love this infectiously exuberant, unashamedly scatological animation

Whether you prefer the zingy Zootropolis, emotional Inside Out or progressive Moana, high benchmarks of smarts have lately been hit in the junior movie market. Captain Underpants gleefully flaunts a determination to lower those standards, though it's not without its own canny streak. Stuffed so full of juvenile antics it's a wonder the elastic holds, DreamWorks' good-natured adaptation of Dav Pilkey's novels targets the part of kids' brains which seems predisposed to enjoy a good fart gag: and, sweetly, it finds much to like there.

Pocket-sized pranksters George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) resemble a proto Beavis and Butt-Head, made redeemable by the imaginative potential they channel into creating irreverent comic-books about gaff-prone superhero Captain Underpants. Director David Soren (Turbo) and scriptwriter Nicholas Stoller (Storks, Bad Neighbours 2 – good training) ignore George and Harold's parents, assuming the duo's viewpoints throughout. Their bromance is viewed in loved-up candy colours, their school-life under Grinch-y principal Mr Krupp (Ed Helms) in prisoner-of-war movie greys. Until the pals transform Krupp into their klutzy Captain using a cereal box hypno-ring, making school a sillier place to be.

If the story is strictly one-ply thin, the pre-tween perspective is upheld with infectious exuberance. The Captain's clash with Nick Kroll's super-villain Professor Poopypants and his school swot assistant Melvin (Jordan Peele) involves a veritable surge of no-brow gags, taking in pee, poo and weaponised robo-toilets. Any temptation to gussy up proceedings with in-jokes for accompanying adults is resisted. This is a film that sides with the kids, right down to its sly jabs at uncaring, cash-starved school systems and loose message about the value of laughing at yourself; and, of course, at the mere existence of a planet called Uranus.

General release from Mon 24 Jul.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

  • 3 stars
  • 2017
  • US
  • 1h 29min
  • PG
  • Directed by: David Soren
  • Cast: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms

Animated superhero comedy based on the bestselling book series by Dav Pilkey. This is a film that sides with the kids, right down to its sly jabs at uncaring, cash-starved school systems and loose message about the value of laughing at yourself; and, of course, at the mere existence of a planet called Uranus.

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