CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE review

Unlike a lot of kids, I actually never read the books this movie is based on. Can’t exactly explain why. I always had an interest, but I never made the time or any real effort to read them. So, to be completely honest, I have no idea what they were about. I actually assumed it was about a little kid with superpowers who saved older kids from whatever was terrorizing them.

I see that the movie is very different from my preconceptions. It looks like it’s about two kids who are notorious pranksters. One day, they go too far and their mean principal threatens to keep them apart in separate classrooms to prevent their diabolical schemes. Genuinely afraid to be apart, they hypnotize their principal via ridiculously random magic ring into believing that he is the kids’ personal superhero creation, Captain Underpants, who goes around fighting crime and monsters that don’t exist, until a real threat comes along for him to save the day.

I have to admit… I don’t think this looks good. I mean, I can appreciate DreamWorks keeping the animation the same style as the books, but man, I do not buy these voice actors as kids. Even if the movie happens to be really good, which I’m not holding my breath for, Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch will distract the living daylights out of me for how much they do not sound like kids. Look, I know Hart is a short dude with a high pitched voice, but he still doesn’t sound like a kid. He sounds like a high-pitched voiced adult. But hey, I’ll keep my mind open. DreamWorks has done amazing work in the past. But for every few great films, they’ve got one bad one too. Initial thoughts are: not a good movie.

But let’s take a look at the voice talent. As previously stated, we have Hart (THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS [2016], GET HARD [2015], GRUDGE MATCH [2013], and upcoming films JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017] and RIDE ALONG 3, due out… who knows when), Middleditch (THE BRONZE [2016], THE CAMPAIGN [2012], TV show SILICON VALLEY, and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS [2019]), as well as Ed Helms (VACATION [2015], THE LORAX [2012], and THE HANGOVER [2009]). In support, we have Nick Kroll (SING [2016], and TV shows THE LEAGUE and PARKS AND REC), Jordan Peele (STORKS [2016], WANDERLUST [2012], and TV show KEY AND PEELE), and Kristen Schaal (THE BOSS [2016], and TV shows BOBS BURGERS and THE LAST MAN ON EARTH).

Now for behind the scenes. Directing is David Soren, known for TURBO (2013). Penning the screenplay is Nicholas Stoller, known for STORKS, MUPPETS MOST WANTED (2014), and THE MUPPETS (2011). Finally, the composer for the score is Theodore Shapiro, known for COLLATERAL BEAUTY (2016), INFINITELY POLAR BEAR (2014), and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID (2010).

Overall, not terribly thrilled to see this, but here’s to hoping it’s better than it’s letting on.

This is my honest opinion of: CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE

(SUMMARY)

Harold (Thomas Middleditch) and George (Kevin Hart) are a pair of kids who are the best of friends. They make comics together, their favorite creation being the crime-fighting Captain Underpants, and try to have as much fun as possible. This isn’t easy when they’re at school, which is run by their evil principal, Mr. Krupp (Ed Helms). They combat his authority by pulling off pranks. He’s been unable to get them in trouble due to a lack of proof. However, the inevitable happens and the two boys are about to be separated into different classes. In an act of desperation, Harold attempts to hypnotize Krupp using a magical toy ring… and it miraculously works. They turn Krupp into their comic creation Captain Underpants and he gets loose, trying to fight crime with super powers that he doesn’t have.

(REVIEW)

While I wasn’t wholly wrong about this movie, I’d be lying if I said was completely right. It’s no Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon, it’s perfectly fine for what it is: a harmless kids movie.

Because the movie is painfully clear that it’s meant for kids, the humor is exactly that: kiddie humor. So most of the jokes aren’t especially funny. It’s just tolerable. Thankfully, DreamWorks had the foresight not to go all NORM OF THE NORTH (2016), but keeps the humor pretty innocent. I think maybe there was one fart joke that wasn’t too bad, and a surprising lack of potty humor. Instead, the jokes are pretty much what you’d expect them to be. The kids hypnotize their principal into turning into their undergarment clad superhero and laugh at him as any kid would, and the guy acting all goofy. Again, thankfully, it’s written in a way that isn’t annoying. It’s not written funny, for the most part, but it’s not obnoxious.

Even the plot has been kind of done before. Not the superhero bit, of course, but the whole, “We’re fun-loving kids in a school that hates fun and we’re the rebels who want the rest of the kids to have fun too.” MIDDLE SCHOOL (2016) did that and you can argue that FIST FIGHT (2017) did it too to a degree, albeit it’s the teachers struggling to deal with unruly teens. Give the movie some credit, that’s not the focus of the story and they do segue into a more exciting story. But even that’s been done before too: unleashing a goofy adult that young people need to rein in and pretend they’re related, like in JUMANJI (1995). Once again though, it could have been worse.

The movie also does try to have a moral at the end: find something to laugh at yourself about. I can’t lie, I like that moral and it’s pretty unique in a kids movie. The problem is that the rest of the movie doesn’t really back it up. The movie starts off about pranks and learning to lighten up, then it turns into a silly superhero movie, and it’s only at the end where the moral is brought up. But even then, it’s not really enforcing its moral. The kids are still laughing at the teacher’s name and spent a good chunk of time making fun of it in a self-made comic book they made. These kids never make fun of themselves or point out their own flaws. So the moral is completely confused and ultimately pointless.

Is there anything that’s funny? Well, I did like a few jokes in the beginning. You might recall from the trailer when the two kids try to leave their principal’s office only for him to press a button and then a high tech lockdown initiates, preventing their escape. By the end of the dramatic lockdown, George says, “Wow, that’s an expensive door.” But this is followed up with Mr. Krupp smugly saying something like, “Do you like it? I had a choice to spend school funding on a magnetically sealed door, or keep the theater-arts department open. I think I made the better choice.” I admit, I laughed at that. There’s another sequence where, if I remember correctly, Captain Underpants has turned the entire front of the school into an amusement park of sorts and Harold and George are like, “What do we do?! We have to stop this!” A shot of kids having fun goes by and then you see Harold and George going through a sugar rush, clearly enthralled by the festivities at some point. And pretty much anything when Professor Poopypants comes in. Yup, Kroll steals the show on this one. One line that just came back to me was when Poopypants has got these kids in a bind and he’s about to sap their ability to laugh at anything, the kids try to appeal to his good nature by saying something like, “Dude, you gotta lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself,” or something to that effect. And then Poopypants exclaims, “Oh really, Oprah?!” Again, I laughed quite a bit on that one. There’s also this running gag with this lady on hold. That was funny too.

That’s… kind of it, actually. It’s not like a good DreamWorks movie like How to Train Your Dragon where adults could go in without kids and get something out of it. No, you’d want to bring your kids for this one. It’s a movie for them and it works fine for what it’s supposed to do: keep ’em entertained, which it will do effectively. The animation is fine, and fast-paced, so it’s never boring. It’s colorful and competently made, so it’s not completely devoid of imagination. Personally, if you wanted to see a better version of this that both kids and adults would enjoy, LEGO BATMAN (2017) is the way to go. But if your kids are itching to see it, go ahead, it’s harmless and not painful to sit through. But if you’re an adult hit with nostalgia who grew up with the books unlike me, I’d say wait for a rental. It’s not exactly worth a theater viewing. Not bad, not that good, just… meh. I’m not the target demographic, so it is what it is.

My honest rating for CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE: 3/5

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LOVING review

I’ve been seeing this trailer every damn where for months. This movie really wants you to know that it exists and like a child that craves attention, it’s one and only trailer is attached to everything. It’s… annoying. But as it is, it doesn’t look bad per se. It does, however, look like any other racially charged romance. I feel like you could watch this trailer and know exactly where the story’s going to go. Well, fair argument, it’s based on a true story (what isn’t these days) and you could spoil the entire movie by reading about it on Wikipedia. I do, however, think it’s a bad sign if you can figure the movie out even if you didn’t know it was based on true events. I know interracial marriages were a shit-storm of controversy some decades ago and this is probably one of the more famous cases, but… I don’t know.

Let’s check out the cast, shall we? Co-starring are Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga. Edgerton is a rising name and face in film, especially thanks to 2015. He was great in BLACK MASS and his movie THE GIFT, which he wrote, directed, and starred in was probably one of the better films to come out last year. He’s always had a fine career, and it seems like it’s only getting better. I might dare to say that this film looks like it’s perfect for him to show more of his acting chops. I can’t say that I am too familiar with Negga. I don’t watch the TV show PREACHER, and I stopped watching Marvel’s AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. some time ago. I also don’t remember her role in WARCRAFT (2016), but she looks like she’s going to be alright in this. In supporting roles, we have the amazing Michael Shannon (ELVIS & NIXON [2016], MAN OF STEEL [2013], and TV show BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Marton Csokas (THE EQUALIZER [2014], the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and XXX [2002]), and Nick Kroll (SAUSAGE PARTY [2016], I LOVE YOU, MAN [2009], and TV show PARKS AND RECREATION).

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Jeff Nichols, known for writing and directing most of his work, which includes MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016), MUD (2012), and TAKE SHELTER (2011). Composing the music is David Wingo, known for working with Nichols on MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, MUD, but also did the music for SNOW ANGELS (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Stone, known for working with Nichols on his movies too, as well as COMPLIANCE (2012).

Overall, I’m pretty indifferent to the story, but I do really like Edgerton, so I’m going to support this film. Hopefully, it’s great, but those trailers really soured my interest. This is my honest opinion of LOVING.

(SUMMARY)

Based on a true story, set in the last 1950’s. Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) marries Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga). They have a very good relationship, but that same relationship unfortunately gets them arrested in their home state of Virginia. This is because Richard is a white man and Mildred is a black woman, and it’s illegal to have interracial marriages in the state. Their lawyer gets them off easy by having them plead guilty to their marriage in court under the condition that they leave the state and not return for twenty-five years, taking the two away from their respective families. But as time goes on, an amateur lawyer named Bernie Cohen (Nick Kroll) wants to take their case back to court in the hopes of giving their lives back and change the course of future white and black relationships forever.

(REVIEW)

I think I’m still processing a lot of the movie, but let’s get down to it.

Edgerton and Negga are both pretty good in this movie. I say “pretty good” mostly because they weren’t given a whole lot to work with. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with their performances. They’re perfect for what they are. But both characters are pretty quiet throughout out the story. I do get the sense that Richard is a big man, but a gentle heart, and wants to take care of her, but that’s about it. I remember even less about Mildred. She’s his wife and she loves him. They love each other.

I think that’s the problem with the movie. There’s no meat to their relationship, but rather the effect it has on everyone around them. They’re in a grocery store being affectionate, a black woman looks upon them with disapproval. Richard’s mother disagrees with their marriage, and of course their initial arrest. There’s not enough of how their relationship affects them. They don’t really talk to each other about how they feel. It’s all just how everyone else feels and that doesn’t feel right.

Is the movie bad for this? Probably not. There is that scene where Richard is telling Mildred, “I can take care of you.” Edgerton’s performance is drenched in vulnerability and conviction. He even gives Richard this dry sense of humor where everything he disapproves of results in him giving this half-assed grunt, which tickles me. Even the scene with Grey Villet (Michael Shannon) watching Richard and Mildred watching TV and he lays on her lap, that’s a genuinely heartwarming moment. But these moments don’t make up the majority of the movie. Because of this, there isn’t enough focus on Richard and Mildred as people, which probably doesn’t do them justice. It doesn’t quite hurt their memory, I don’t think, but it’s just not enough to carry a film about them. Historical relevance is nice and all, but I want to feel for these two. Not a live reenactment of a Wikipedia page.

It’s also entirely possible that this movie got buried in amidst some pretty big movies this week. A superhero movie with trippy visuals, a war film about pacifism, and an animated kids film, it’s easy to overlook this movie. I’m certainly still riding high on the previous viewings, so it’s difficult to detach myself from how big the other films were and bring myself down to a more mellow mind-set and fully engross myself in this story. But I suppose one could argue, if the movie was superb, I would have naturally grounded myself, instead of trying to force it.

I can’t and won’t say that this is a bad movie, but it’s unfortunately pretty forgettable. Maybe worth a single viewing, but a waste of a potentially good story and certainly a waste of solid talent.

My honest rating for LOVING: 3/5

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And that’s all she wrote, kids. But fear not! The next coming weeks are going to get interesting and exciting.

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