‘Captain Underpants’ Review: A Terrific Toon That’s Super Silly

Drew Dietsch
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of 5
Review Essentials
  • Delightfully zany
  • A clear love of animation and imagination
  • Gets lowbrow humor right
  • Great meta-humor
  • Fun for all-ages
  • Character work is a little limp

The childhood superhero finally makes his way to the big screen in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Elementary school friends Harold and George are always getting in trouble with their fun-hating principal, Mr. Krupp. When their friendship is in danger, they hypnotize Mr. Krupp into believing he is Captain Underpants, the superhero from Harold and George’s comic books. Good timing since an evil scientist named Professor Poopypants has just come into town and is about to cause some trouble.

A Movie for the Kid in Us All

captain underpants review harold and george

Captain Underpants is clearly aware of its juvenile nature and embraces it with chaotic glee. Lots of films rely on potty humor for cheap laughs without ever understanding how such lowbrow jokes can actually be really funny. Captain Underpants gets potty humor in a way that many “adult” films don’t. Seeing Harold and George discover their friendship over some shared laughter at the planet Uranus (tee hee) captures this movie’s grasp of childish hilarity perfectly.

And that love of absurdity carries over to the animation. This is a film made by fans of the art form and it shows. There is an intelligent idiocy to how off-the-wall the cartoon antics get. That doesn’t happen unless you have real students of the craft. You can see influences from early Fleischer cartoons and the work of Tex Avery. Add that with a modern day storytelling sensibility and Captain Underpants creates the perfect blend of classical buffoonery and contemporary comedy.

An Ode to Imagination

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What also bolsters the film is an apparent love of youthful imagination and the arts. The irreverent tone meshes perfectly with wonderful animation that blends Looney Tunes-esque physics with an over-the-top sense of self-awareness. You’ll have an entire sequence that styles itself after Harold and George’s crayon-colored comic books, only for the next scene to be acted out entirely with sock puppets. There is even a segment that plays out in Flip-o-Rama, the simple animation technique that was present in all of the Captain Underpants books. It’s such a delightful celebration of being a creative kid and that lends the movie a lot of its heart.

If the film has one problem, it’s that its relentless ridiculousness leaves very little breathing room for any depth. The movie is an unstoppable barrage of meta humor, cartoony insanity, and outright jokes. They all work extremely well but they don’t leave tons of room for many characters to feel fully formed. Still, that’s actually a fairly minor complaint with a movie like Captain Underpants. It’s goal is to be as goofy as it possibly can be, and it succeeds in spades.

Is Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Good?

captain underpants review

This is the kind of cartoon film we need more of. It’s like a Deadpool for little kids: endlessly preposterous but with a real brain behind it all. The laughter is non-stop but what’s really great is that it will probably get your kids to create their own art. If we had a kids movie that inspired that kind of creativity every year, it’d be a slightly happier world. Oh, and Weird Al does the theme song. In case you doubted this movie’s amazingness.

Captain Underpants is in theaters now.

Drew Dietsch
Drew Dietsch has been professionally writing about entertainment for over a decade. His bylines include FANDOM - where he was a founding contributor and Entertainment Editor - Bloody Disgusting, SYFY WIRE, and more. He created and hosts GenreVision, a weekly film discussion show at genrevision.com.