Oh my gosh, you guys. You guys! You guys. They did it. They made the most juvenile movie that ever existed. When parents complained when we were kids that the stuff we watched was extremely immature and we felt bad about it? That's nothing. Like, this is almost a parody of what kids like. There are so many fart jokes. SO MANY! I love fart jokes. There's actually one gag in here that is so immature that I was the only one laughing. It's really immature guys. My son got scared, but I shouldn't write that anymore because that is par for the course. The movie is fine. I regret showing my kids because I feel dumber, but that's about as far as I could condemn it. PG.
DIRECTOR: David Soren
I was going to try and write this blog before my daughter woke up. She's now sitting on the high table behind me, watching as I type every word. I'm sorry, Olivia. I might be making some pretty scathing commentary on the state of poop jokes in America. Strap in, because this is the fifth sentence in what is sure to be a riveting take on how some movies just propel forward on the steam of "we can finish this movie" rather than saying anything interesting.
Big surprise: the Captain Underpants movie is kind of dumb. I'm not saying dumb is always a bad thing, but too much dumb is too much dumb. (Oh golly, I've gone dumb!) I wrote about The Emoji Movie once and these movies are kind of best friends in terms of placating to children. Often, I find myself commenting on the fact that "this movie isn't for me", but I have to now put a caveat on that statement. The Captain Underpants movie isn't for me, but I also want it to be something that adds something positive to my kids. I don't know if it gave them much to grow on besides the fact that I walk around the house and operatically sing "Tra La La!". This sounds like a lot of movies, but this one really takes the cake in a weird way. Let me contrast this movie to Boss Baby. I know a lot of people rolled their eyes at Boss Baby, especially when it was nominated for an Academy Award. I'm not saying that Boss Baby had a lot of substance. But there was something there. There was this artistic merit that the movie had. Read my review. In it, I talked a lot about how the movie dealt with a real theme of experiencing something new. There was this design that the movie implemented when the protagonist would dream and use his imagination. The movie had a solid amount of heart, despite the sheer amount of diaper jokes. Now looking at Captain Underpants, the deepest theme is the power of friendship. But that exploration is pretty face value. The biggest takeaway from the film is that friends are great. Really, the biggest message is the fact that you should make poop jokes as much as humanly possible and anyone that doesn't find them funny is an awful human being. Oddly, as much as I'm panning this film, I kind of agree with that message. But that's not a message that exactly needs to be preached to kids. Instead, this oddly feels like the biggest money grabbing thing in the world. Now, I have to take a big step back. My daughter really wanted me to stress that this is based on a set of books that I have not really let her read. I haven't really avoided them so much as she's never gravitated to them. As far as I understand, the Captain Underpants movie is pretty faithful to the stories and the characters. (I know, here I'm talking about a faithful adaptation from the source material and it is the Captain Underpants movie.) But she now wants to read these books. The movie did that. Some of you are shouting, "Hooray for this movie...getting kids to read!" Hold your horses. She was reading good stuff before that. She was obsessed with the Anne of Green Gables books for a while. We're reading the first Harry Potter book and the first Series of Unfortunate Events books right now. I know that those last two aren't that impressive, but they do have a bit of heart to them. I think, after seeing the movie, that these books would be a big step backwards.
But then I have to actually look at the value of this movie. Honestly, I worked really hard to laugh. This was family movie night and I really wanted my kids to like it. It's kind of a bummer when my kids get bored on family movie night. They didn't really laugh at the first few jokes. I really didn't find them funny either, but I laughed. They saw me laughing and got on board. That eventually built into some genuine laughs. But I found myself meeting the movie more than halfway. Like I mentioned, there is one gag that is so immature that I found myself honestly laughing at the absurdity of it, but I didn't really find it funny. Again, I like fart humor. It's great. But I like a well-crafted fart joke. I need to know that a team of writers really workshopped the heck out that fart joke before I get really excited about it. Call me a fart joke hipster, but I like it beyond just the basic joke. One thing most funny kids movies understand is that the movie doesn't have to be for adults, but the adults will have to sit through it. The only cast member who kind of knocks a joke out of the park is Nick Kroll's Professor P. He has this great delivery that is marred by one thing: he's recycling a joke that's done before. I love Nick Kroll. I think he's one of the funniest comedians working today. But I recognized the bit from other things he's done before. While he's knocking the jokes out of the park with little to work with, this kind of feels like he's just getting a paycheck. Thomas Middleditch and Kevin Hart do a fine job in this movie. My wife, who is honestly a savant at recognizing voiceover work, instantly knew it was Thomas Middleditch. If I stretched my ear, I guess I could hear his cadence in the movie, but it was hard. Ed Helms was Ed Helms, but I also think that he handles a tougher job with panache. The big takeaway from all this is that there is this absolutely tremendous cast in the movie and, outside of Nick Kroll, they don't really add much to the movie. They have a very specific job that doesn't really need an expensive cast like the movie offers. Really, this voiceover work could have gone to anyone with a modicum of experience. These names are just attached to the movie to pull bigger audiences. I can't stress this enough: This is a corporate film kind of without heart. Why get these names? Because we'll make more money.
I ended up watching part of this movie a second time. On vacation, my kids watched this movie with their second cousins. Henry was still scared. He gets scared really easily. Olivia kind of seemed to enjoy it, but she also looked a little bored. But her cousins were kind of excited. I bet there's a bunch of kids who really dig this movie. I mean, as a family, we had an overall good time with it. But that's because we wanted to have a good time, regardless if this movie was good or not. But her cousin had a bunch of those books on his shelf. Despite the fact that his eyes were drooping out of the fact that he had seen this movie a bunch of times and that it was also 10:30 at night, he still spasmed with something that could be construed as laughter. He still found it funny and it served its purpose. This movie is a frozen pizza. You could go into eating a frozen pizza as "I don't feel like cooking" bare-bones sustenance. Or you could go into frozen pizza as a fun treat that isn't that good for you, but you'll enjoy it anyway. When we watched it as a family, we made the best of a pretty lame movie. But like a frozen pizza, I don't want to make a habit of watching that movie on a regular basis.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.