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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that as long as you don't have a problem with potty humor, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a fun pick for elementary schoolers and up. But you really need to be OK with the potty humor, because it's constant. Based on the hugely popular book series by Dav Pilkey, the story follows two prank-loving best friends who hypnotize their angry principal into believing he's Captain Underpants, the hero of the boys' many comic books. In addition to all the jokes about poop, Uranus, and other bodily functions, there's some superhero/action violence -- particularly when the villain (Professor Poopypants) attacks the school. But many of the tense/perilous moments are lightened via humor (there's lots of slapstick) and animation choices (for instance, switching to a flip-book style at the height of a big battle). Some kids might be upset by the principal's constant yelling or his threat to separate the boys and end their friendship, but things generally stay pretty upbeat. Language includes frequent potty/body words, as well as insults like "weirdo," "stupid," and "suck up," and there's some stereotyping (particularly the nerdy character, Melvin). Two adults flirt with each other and go on a date. While the boys don't show much respect for authority, they do learn important lessons about what makes a friendship/team really strong and the importance of having empathy for others.
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What's the story?
In CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE, Captain Underpants is the creation of best friends George (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch). They've been inseparable since kindergarten, when they bonded over their shared amusement at the word "Uranus" during a science lesson. These days, in fourth grade, they giggle over the potty-centric comic books they create and the pranks they pull at school under the nose of their by-the-book principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). When Krupp finally ends up with proof of their hijinks and vows to end the boys' friendship, George does the only thing he can think of: He flashes his plastic hypno-ring at Krupp. Somehow, it works, and the boys tell Krupp he's now Captain Underpants ... so he promptly disrobes, makes himself a cape, and dashes off to fight crime. Since the Captain doesn't have the super powers to match his superhero mindset, he causes more problems than he fixes, but the boys can't risk turning him back into Krupp, especially when a villain by the name of Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) arrives on the scene. How can they save their school and their friendship?
Is it any good?
Based on the first book in Dav Pilkey's wildly popular series about a nearly naked superhero, this animated comedy about friendship (and farts) is guaranteed to amuse the young kids in your life. You'll likely even laugh several times yourself, thanks to a cleverer-than-expected script and moments when the main characters break the fourth wall and talk directly to viewers. But here's the thing: You have to be OK with potty humor to enjoy Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. If talk of poop (including diarrhea) or the sight of people (even animated ones) running around in their underwear makes you at all uncomfortable or offended, skip it. Because there's a lot of both of those things in this movie.
The good news is that there are also clear messages about the importance of friendship -- George and Harold realize that they don't have to be in the same class for their friendship to survive -- and empathy for others. The boys see Krupp in a new light as they learn more about his lonely life, and even though they can't help being amused by the professor's name, they acknowledge that it's wrong to laugh at someone for that reason alone. The voice actors are all well cast, and the movie's mix of animation styles keeps things lively and unexpected. Plus, it offers a nice argument in favor of arts, music, and creativity in kids' education. It's never hard to guess where the story is headed, but, all in all, you could do far worse for an afternoon/night out at the movies. As long as you don't mind poop jokes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the jokes in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Some parents find the potty humor really inappropriate. What do you think? When are certain kinds of jokes appropriate -- and when aren't they? Parents, talk to your kids about your own expectations for language at home and at school.
Which parts of the movie did you find scary? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
George and Harold also model good teamwork. How does that help them realize that their friendship can withstand any threat?
- In theaters: June 2, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: September 12, 2017
- Cast: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms
- Director: David Soren
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Superheroes, Book Characters, Friendship
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild rude humor throughout
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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