Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie – Scatological jokes don’t come any cleaner

Stray grown-ups will find plenty to amuse in the tale of two comic book authors

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
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Director: David Soren
Cert: G
Genre: Animation
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Thomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal
Running Time: 1 hr 29 mins

George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Silicon Valley's Thomas Middleditch) are two clever best friends and budding comic book authors, whose finest work revolves around the briefs-wearing saviour of the title. Using a plastic hypnotic ring from a cereal box, the firm chums transform their entirely unreasonable principal (Ed Helms), into their fictional superhero. That may be for the best, for the nefarious supervillain Professor Poopypants (Sausage Party's Nick Kroll) has arrived at the school posing as a science teacher. However will the clueless Captain Underpants measure up against this nemesis, his giant robotic lavatory monster, and class suck-up Melvin Sneedly (Get Out writer-director Jordan Peele)?

Sling your hook, Spider-Man. Twelve books and 20 years into Dav Pilkey's best-selling Captain Underpants sequence – 70 million units and counting – and the inappropriately attired superhero has finally made his big screen bow. In the US, Pilkey's much-loved creation attracts more library complaints than Fifty Shades of Grey, but, as fans can attest, there's a brilliant alchemy to the author's brand of potty humour, a magic that spills into this new film from Turbo director David Soren. Pilkey, who was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia in childhood, created his comic book as a way to reach out to his primary school peers; four decades later the captain retains a bubbly, silly innocence.  Lavatories abound, but without the associated bodily fluids. Scatological jokes don't come any cleaner.

In this spirit, the seventh planet from the Sun – you know the one – makes for much hilarity and a crucial plot point in this keenly awaited First Epic Movie. Working from an appropriately zany script by Nicholas Stoller (Get Him to the Greek, The Muppets), the lively central duo, as voiced by Hart and Middleditch, provide infectious fits of giggles against inventive, brightly coloured multimedia animation. Over-sevens should, ideally, be accompanied. But stray grown-ups will find plenty to amuse, particularly those adults whose inner-child is thinking: "You had me at underpants."

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic