Captain Underpants: The First Movie review

My opinion right after watching the film

My opinion right after watching the film is that I liked it a lot more than I thought I would, though at the same time, could never fall in love with the film. When they choose to develop the story and characters, it is great, but it does not often happen. It is a brilliant film to look at, and captures the imagination and the overly large world from a child’s personal perspective better than The Boss Baby. One of the strongest films this year so far, but not one of my favourites.

Production

Apparently there was always interest by DreamWorks to adapt this film even dating back to the late 90s, but the creator Dav Pilkey did not want to sell the rights, and didn’t until 2011. Production of the film did not start until 2013 though. During the reshuffling that took place 2 years ago, it was announced that the animation of this film would be done outside of the studio at a significantly lower cost. The director of Turbo named David Soren was brought over to this film to work on it right after the former film was completed.

Story

The film starts with a backstory of how our two main characters named George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) became friends, which shows a more depth in their relationship, which is key to the film. If only DreamWorks learned to do this with their earlier films (I don’t need to name the film). They are in the fourth grade, and are the big pranksters in the school, since they want to being fun and light to the depressing school, which is mostly caused by the mean principal Benjamin (Ed Helms), who also hates them creating comic books called Captain Underpants. A prank too far causes Ben to split them up into different classrooms to destroy their friendship.

Somehow, George pulls out a hypnotizing ring from a cereal box to try and convince the principal to not split them up, and…… it…. oddly….. Works. To try something else, they demand him to act like Captain Underpants (due to their resemblance), which takes place, and the boys soon regrets it. After bringing him to their treehouse, they play around a bit more by coming to the realization that they can bring him back to normal by splashing water on him, but they want to keep him under control, since they know Ben will try to split them up again.

A scientist named Poopypants (Nick Kroll) appears at the school, and is hired by Underpants, who creeps out our two main characters. To be honest, the film loses my interest and gets sloppy around this point. Poopypants gets a kid named Melvin (Jordan Peele) to be his assistant to help with his plan to wipe out laughter from the world, since he was made fun of a lot because of his name. Underpants fails to save the day, since he has no actual powers, but manages to eat some of the mutated food, which actually DOES give him powers.

Of course things turn out well, and the boys realize that they cannot, and should not control Benjamin anymore, so they break the ring, and he returns to normal. They also set him up with the lunch lady named Edith (Kristen Schaal), which warms him up more, and comes to an understanding with the boys, telling them that their comics are funny, so on and so forth. During the date, the toilet comes back to life, and the film ends with the cliffhanger of Benjamin turning into Captain Underpants to stop the toilets.

I mentioned before that the first half of the film is great, but it kind of falls apart a bit and loses my attention when the villain shows up. Some things are a bit too random or underdeveloped, but then they execute the theme of the film really, really well. If the story was a bit tighter, this film could have been excellent. Still, it is one of the best films DreamWorks has put out in YEARS. I am worried about the films that will be under Illumination….. I mean Universal now, since this was the last film under 20th Century Fox.

Characters

One area where I think the movie is a bit weak are the characters. George and Harold are great together, and they did develop their relationship really well (unlike another unnamed film I do not need to mention), but as separate characters……… there really is not much there, as they are a bit too similar. Both are pranksters, and imaginative children who tends to think the most. Benjamin is used as more of a plot device than develop as his own character, but he is utilized well, and does have some characterization. The villain Poopypants is weak, and the other characters I do not really remember to be honest.

Animation

The animation is very lovely, and unique for DreamWorks. It is clear that they did the animation in another studio, as the motions and textures are a lot more cartoon-like and pixelized. A lot of it is because they wanted to keep the movement and faith of the comic through the animation, and they did it really well. It is rare for me to be intrigued by the animation, and this film had me intrigued all the way through. Brilliant job, and I like how DreamWorks continues to play with the medium.

Music

While the music is not really memorable, it is fitting to the aloof, light-hearted, and childish tone of the film. There was like one or two pop songs that I did not care for but the core is definitely a lot better, though still not that memorable. It’s kind of what you would expect from this type of film.

Reception at Release

When the film came out on June 2017, it has (as of July 16th) made $70 million domestically, and 8.2 million in other territories, adding up to a worldwide total of $79.2 million. This makes the film DreamWorks’ second lowest-grossing film, barely beating The Road to El Dorado. I believe even Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas made more money than this, so it’s a shock for a DreamWorks film to make such little money at this current time. The last DreamWorks film to not make $100 million was Flushed Away over a decade ago. Luckily, the budget was exponentially low, so the losses are not going to be THAT big.

It received critical acclaim, despite its financial struggles. People liked that it captured most of the characteristics and features from the comic series regarding the childlike nature, though others just saw it as another typical DreamWorks film.

Final Score

Story: 7.5/10

Characters:  6.5/10

Animation:  9.5/10

Music:  7/10
=  30.5/40 =  76%

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2 thoughts on “Captain Underpants: The First Movie review

  1. I am not sure about it struggling financially. While it grossed less than other DreamWorks movie, I think it also had a lower budget, so it might have made more money than some of their higher grossing outings.

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