Captain Underpants

Based on a series of twelve children’s books, Captain Underpants: The Original Superhero is the story of Best Friends Forever George and Harold. To stay sane in their suffocating grammar school, they write comics starring their imagined superhero, Captain Underpants. They also engage in elaborate pranks, to the dismay of their insufferable, warden-like principal, Mr. Krupp. Things come to a head when Krupp threatens to transfer them to separate classes to put an end to their troublemaking. Desperate, George tries to hypnotize Krupp with his cereal-box hypno-ring. Amazingly, it works, and the boys transform a transfixed Krupp into a real-life, dim-whited Captain Underpants. film’s plot is as hilarious and loony as it sounds, loaded with gags aimed squarely at the under-10 set. We not only get the expected potty jokes, but also a villain named Professor Poopypants. When Poopypants develops a weapon to rid the world of laughter, Captain Underpants must confront him in a climactic battle to keep the whole world from taking it in the shorts.

The visual design here is less slick than in DreamWorks’ other 2017 hit, The Boss Baby, but the intent was to mimic the look of the illustrations in author Dav Pilkey’s books. The 4K UHD disc offers noise-free, richly saturated color and impressive detail. But typical of animation, the images are almost continuously bright and make little use of high dynamic range.

The UHD disc’s audio offers Dolby Atmos, but I auditioned it in 5.1-channel Dolby TrueHD. It’s dynamic, with a well-recorded, pop-heavy score and strong though not particularly deep bass.

Apart from a couple of music videos and several trailers, the extras (on the HD disc) are dominated by short subjects that use sock- or stick-puppet characters introducing clips from the movie. But there’s little useful making-of detail. The only exception is a feature showing deleted scenes in rough form (final cut decisions are usually made on rough storyboards, or moving sketches called animatics, prior to finished animation).

Since the original Shrek, a trademark of DreamWorks has been humor that adults can enjoy while their kids laugh themselves off their chairs at the more obvious gags. Captain Underpants lacks this more than most, but there’s enough here in its crazy and creative plot and animation to keep everyone happy for its short, 89-minute running time.

Studio: DreamWorks Animation, 2017
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio Format: Dolby Atmos (Ultra HD); DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (Blu-ray)
Length: 89 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: David Soren
Starring: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms