One of the funniest, most heartwarming films of the year" (William Bibbiani, Crave Online). Certified Fresh on RottenTomatoes.com, this outrageous family comedy tells the story of two overly imaginative best friends, George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), who hypnotize their principal (Ed Helms) into thinking he's the hero from their comic books: Captain Underpants. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie also features the voice talent of Nick Kroll as Professor Poopypants.
As someone who grew up with great children’s entertainment such as The Lion King and Aladdin, I have grown to be quite a curmudgeon towards modern children’s films. They are so squarely aimed at the children’s demographic without speaking to a wider audience. There was also a timeless nature to older entertainment that I feel is lacking in their modern-day equivalents, with their heavy emphasis on the latest pop songs. So, imagine my surprise when Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie becomes the rare instance in children’s entertainment which subverts my personal bias.
Based on a series of novels by author Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie stars Kevin Heart and Thomas Middleditch as George and Harold, two 4th grade friends who are inseparable but find their bland Ohio school boring and do anything they can to make it more interesting. Unfortunately, grown-ups just don’t understand these things, so the school staff foils their plans. George and Harold aren’t misguided in any way. They are just two mischievous kids looking to amuse themselves by causing small pranks around the school, making me think of my own high school experiences. George and Harold have the type of bond and comradery with each other that makes them instantly relatable despite their mischievous ways.
The two boys’ main target is their mean principal Benjamin Krupp (ED Helms). When he attempts to separate the two friends, in an act of desperation, George whips out his 3D Hypno Ring and hypnotizes Krupp and thus the superhero Captain Underpants is born. Not long after, the boys and the Captain must stop the evil Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) from his quest to abolish laughter altogether. Ed Helms’s take on the character of Krupp/Captain Underpants is absolutely hilarious and endearing. There is an irreverent humor the character takes on that is truly infectious that had me yelling "Tra-la-laa!!" like the character himself. That same humor and infectiousness translate into the whole wacky, zany, self-referential word they have recreated here. In fact, this small animated film features some of the best acting from all its leads because of the way they play off of each other and the playful tone of the film.
Just beneath the humor in Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a message about the importance of laughter and friendship that resonated with me. Laughter and friendship are things that can be understated in the competitive world today. This film’s constant energy charms its viewers to remember that it is ok to forget about everyday life and just laugh. Captain Underpants: First Epic Movie is infectious, and it will thaw even the most skeptical of hearts (like yours truly) to get lost in its silly, irreverent, hilarious world.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
DreamWorks brings Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie to Ultra HD with pretty stripped down packaging. Gone is the slipcover with different artwork from the film. Instead, we are just given a hardcover keepcase with a BD-66 Ultra HD Blu-ray, a BD-50 Blu-ray, and an Ultraviolet Digital HD code inside. Once we hit play on the Ultra HD, we are brought straight to the main menu where we can navigate from there.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie soars onto Ultra HD with a 2160p HEVC/H.265 encode that fares better than most 4K transfers. Its $38 million production budget is moderate compared to other animated films, but this is one of the most unique looking and beautiful computer-animated films on the market. Detail work excels here causing the subtlest details to pop. In fact, it is so detailed that you can see every imperfection and every strand of hair on Professor Poopypants’ suit. But most of the backgrounds (especially clouds in exterior shots) feel almost hand drawn and look much more one-dimensional in a film that otherwise has amazing dimensionality. This creates a very unique look that translates extremely well in contrast with the computer animation.
Framed at a 1:85.1 aspect ratio, HDR is the star of the show, giving us a more vivid and dynamic color palette. This is most noticeable in scenes where characters are shown standing next to windows where the sun is shining inward. The rays of light are so vivid they feel tangible as they are cast on the characters in their path. Darks are sparse in such a bright film, but when they do show up, they reveal great depth and feel deeper than the standard Blu-ray counterpart. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie was a release I wasn’t expecting much from on Ultra HD, but because of its outstanding transfer, it has risen to be one of the more impressive transfers in my collection.
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie does a SUP-erb job on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos track that exudes the energy of the film effortlessly. The score fills your sound field with exuberance. Captain Underpants’ “Tra-La-Laaa” chant echoes into the height speakers with authority. Even subtle scenes where two characters are having a conversation is met with excellent speaker separation as one comes from your left front speaker and the other from your right.
The LFE track even gets a decent boost with Atmos here, with the score feeling deeper and warmer than the Blu-ray's DTS-HD MA 7.1 counterpart. High, mid, and low frequencies are just where we want them. When I first started listening to Atmos tracks, I always wanted to review one from an animated feature because of its being completely artificial, and so not tethered to something recorded with the format in mind. I am happy to report that this track is everything I hoped it would be and more. It just has an overly active and over the top nature to it that fits the tone of the film perfectly. I actually found this to be one of the most enjoyable Atmos tracks in my collection, and one I wouldn’t mind coming back to.
The Really Cool Adventures of Captain Underpants Motion Comic (HD 2:52) – A hilarious short feature where the two leads read a raunchy comic book.
The Captain Underpants Guide to Being a Super Hero (HD 3:51) – Ever wonder if you have the chops to be a TRUE superhero? Well, Harold and George are here to school you on all the prerequisites.
The Professor Poopypants (Totally Original and Supercool) Guide to Being a Super Villain (HD 3:53) – Not everyone has aspirations of doing good deeds around the world. Some people just want destruction. If that falls under your line of work, Professor Poopypants is here to teach you the 4-1-1 on villainy.
Missing Underpants: The Deleted Scenes for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie (HD 11:00) – A collection of unfinished animation that didn’t make it into the final cut.
Captain Underpants Lyric Video By “Weird Al” Yankovic (HD 2:15) – A music video performed by the artist that is “Weird” because only half the lyrics appear on screen.
“A Friend Like You” Lyric Video Andy Grammar (HD 3:45) – Another addictive video of a song that won’t leave my head for days.
Tighty-Whitey Q&A with The Stars – Part 1 (HD 1:02) – A pointless Q&A with the stars of the film that is too short to be meaningful.
Tighty-Whitey Q&A with The Stars – Part 2 (HD 1:02) – An equally pointless Q&A that reveals nothing about the film itself.
Kevin Heart and Ed Helms Surprise Fans (HD 2:07) – A small short with clips of the film intercut with Heart and Helms introducing the clips with fans of the book.
Lunch Lady PSA with Kristen Schaal (HD 1:02) – Do you know the most underpaid profession that’s out there today? Apparently, it’s lunch ladies. As unbelievable as that is, the actress is here to talk to us about it.
Sock Puppets Real Stars – (HD 0:27) – A continuation of the sock puppet scene in the film featuring the two leads.
Theatrical Trailer (HD 2:25)
It takes a lot for an animated film to warm my cold heart (for me, they are the hardest movies to review). Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie charmed me with its zany, self-referential tone that opens with the first scene and follows all the way to Weird Al singing the end credits. But beyond all that, I actually found myself invested in its characters and their arcs. The importance of friendship and laughter, and the fear of losing it, is a sweet message I relate to even in my 30s.
This 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offers an outstanding HDR10 presentation alongside one of the most enjoyable Dolby Atmos tracks I've ever added to my growing collection. If you're a fan of this movie or are looking for a sparkling new demo disc, this one comes Highly Recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.