Dav Pilkey’s illustrated kids’ books embrace adolescent toilet humor with silly enthusiasm—and this cinematic adaptation not only captures that sensibility, but offers a spirited defense of it. Grade-school best friends and inveterate pranksters George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) get a chance to see their comic-book creation Captain Underpants come to life when they hypnotize their antagonist, Principal Krupp (Ed Helms), then have to fight against the threat of fired science teacher Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll). Yes, that character name is an indication of the brand of humor on display—an actual giant toilet becomes the giant-size threat—though it’s presented in a visually imaginative style that incorporates CGI, hand-drawn animation, sock puppets and flip-book technology. But the screenplay by Nicholas Stoller (The Muppets, Storks) gives the lively story a boost by celebrating the simple joy of laughter, no matter how lowbrow the manner of its inspiration. It’s absolutely unapologetic about doing the things that make kids giggle, and the obvious liberating pleasure it takes in that pursuit makes it easier for a grown-up to giggle right along with them.
Director: David Soren
Producer: Mireille Soria, Mark Swift, Dav Pilkey and Rob Letterman
Cast: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Thomas Middleditch, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal, Dee Dee Rescher, Brian Posehn, David Soren, Susan Fitzer and Lynnanne Zager