David Soren's last feature length animation director's gig was the 2013 film "Turbo" which I heavily criticized as sending the wrong message to its target audience - children. The film suggested that the only way to physically compete was by taking performance enhancing drugs as the protagonist could only race after he got dosed with a chemical. Bad message for little children.


Soren got a break when Rob Letterman dropped out as director of Dreamwork's latest film "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" after DWA's reorganization. It seems Letterman wasn't happy with the idea that the animation would be produced at a discount house in Canada; Mikros. Mikros has churned out such animated films as "Sahara", "Mune, Guardian of the Moon", and "Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods". If you've never heard of any of these, you aren't the only one. I believe "Sahara" made it on Netflix.


With the downsized budget and downgraded budget - but with the same cast - Soren managed to put together a funny, if not technically flawed film that tastefully hits all the right marks.

Captain Underpants is actually a series of 12 graphic novels by Dav Pilkey that feature the antics of two fourth grade mischief makers, George and Harold (portrayed in the film by Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch). This film is a combination of books one (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), two (Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets) and four(Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants).


The stories rely heavily on scatological humor to tickle the kids funny bones and it seems to work; they have sold over 70-million books globally so far. In adapting the books, Soren did not shy away from the context and, in fact embraces it as the film muddles through the mediocre animation.


George and Harold are two playful boys who illustrate fantasy comic books and pull pranks. The comic books the create are none other than Captain Underpants and the prime target of their pranks are the teachers and principal of their school Jerome Horwitz Elementary School. There seems to be a high turnover of teachers at the school and student morale is at an all-time low because of Principal Krupp (Ed Helms) deplore fun and humor.

After getting into some trouble with a certain video camera, George and Harold decide to use a toy hypnotic ring they got on Krupp; it works! After having him perform a couple of hypno-tricks, they change him into Captain Underpants.


The hypnotism works, but is cancelled out whenever someone snaps their fingers; then he reverts back into the ornery Mr Krupp. It is during one of these breaks that the boys face a new nemesis in Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) who seeks to end laughter in the world (because everyone keeps laughing at his name).


Poopypants is hired by Principal Krupp and aided by the only student in the school with no humor, Melvin (Jordan Peele) - a first class nerd and tattletale. Worse yet, Melvin has supplied Poppypants of a device that will create havoc on George and Harold - and the whole of the laughing world.


In my screening, the children laughed at all the right jokes and pranks... and even the parents chuckled through their frowns. Though, once again Soren's film sends the wrong message of disobeying authority, it was no worse than several other children and family films.


But don't look for the movie to make any scores in the awards department, the animation while fittingly humorous is also flat and two-dimensional and missing the advanced elements to which we have grown accustomed.


"Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" is a satisfying funny film that children will get a kick out of, despite its technical flaws. It will remind old-timers of the old Jay Ward cartoons of the 60s with its scatological humor.   -- GEOFF BURTON