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Starring the voices of Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, Kristen Schaal. Directed by David Soren. (2017, 90 min). DREAMWORKS / 20TH CENTURY FOX

If nothing else, this movie knows its audience. Ergo, there's a climactic battle between our titular hero and an evil genius with a gigantic super-toilet.

That audience is, of course, the millions of kids (with parents in-tow) who grew up on Captain Underpants, the still-popular book series that convinced a lot of them that reading for pleasure isn't a federal crime. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie stays remarkably faithful to its source material...irreverent, just-a-tad rebellious and, of course, packed with as many underwear, private part & potty jokes as they could squeeze into the story while maintaining a PG rating.

Yet, the movie is consistently good-natured and frequently quite funny, even if one has since-graduated elementary school, such as a throw-away scene involving a symbolic bluebird and a cat, which made this old man laugh out loud. More importantly, despite being computer-animated, the film maintains the colorful, exaggerated look of the illustrations in the books.

George & Harold neglect to inform the captain that his barn door is open.
George & Harold neglect to inform the captain that his barn door is open.

The main characters, George & Harold, are are amusing and likable, despite the pranks they pull on their hapless-but-evil principal, Mr. Krupp, who the boys have also managed to turn into the comic character they created, Captain Underpants (using a hypnotizing ring from a cereal box). These two often break the fourth wall to narrate this story, even "stopping" the film to draw what happens next to avoid traumatizing youngsters.

On a side note, I was surprised to discover that Kevin Hart voices George. I must confess I've never been a fan, finding him more overwhelming than funny. Even as a voice actor in The Secret Life of Pets, he came across as trying to dominate every scene he's in. But here, Hart actually disappears into the character and gives George a voice and personality befitting a mischievous young boy. The rest of the cast is equally good in their roles, as well.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is unashamedly a children's film and your little ones will likely outgrow its charms once they hit middle school. But in the moment, fans of the books will love seeing these heroes & villains being brought to life. It's affably entertaining and, despite two main characters who often victimize their elders, never mean-spirited.

EXTRA KIBBLES (mostly of the comical, kid-friendly variety)

  • FEATURETTES: "The Captain Underpants Guide to Being a Hero"; "The Professor Poopypants Guide to Being a Villain"; Q&A with Ed Helms, Kevin Hart & Thomas Middleditch
  • MOTION COMIC: The Really Cool Adventures of Captain Underpants
  • DELETED SCENES
  • MUSIC VIDEOS: "Captain Underpants Theme" by "Weird" Al Yankovic & "A Friend Like You" by Andy Grammer
  • DVD & DIGITAL COPIES

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