This animated movie captures the spirit and the unsophisticated visual style of the books with remarkable fidelity. Fact is, it’s funnier. Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.

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It’s just one of those words that is all-by-itself funny.

Movie Review ★★★½  

‘Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie,’ with the voices of Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele. Directed by David Soren, from a screenplay by Nicholas Stoller, based on the books by Dav Pilkey. 89 minutes. Rated PG for mild rude humor throughout. Several theaters.

Like, say, “pickle.”


Or the name of the seventh planet from the sun.

You can’t hee-hee-lp laughing at that one. Especially if you happen to be in the fourth grade. As are George Beard (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch), smart-aleck heroes of “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.”

It’s their shared love of that glorious/hilarious nom-de-planet that cements their friendship in kindergarten and helps turn them, together, into the merry pranking terrors of Jerome Horwitz Elementary School in little Piqua, Ohio.

Arising from the pages of Dav Pilkey’s incredibly popular series of children’s books, this animated movie captures the spirit and the unsophisticated visual style of the books with remarkable fidelity. Fact is, it’s not only faithful to but funnier than what Pilkey committed to the printed page.

It’s one thing to see a black-and-white line drawing of a 20-foot-tall toilet rampaging across the countryside, sending terrified tykes screaming before it. It’s a whole other thing to experience it on the big scream — er, screen — in full color and surround sound.

Similarly, there’s no way mere words on a page could adequately convey the giddy nuttiness of a student-assembly concert of “The Overture of 1812” rendered with whoopee-cushion instrumentation and armpit-squelching percussion.

Giggleworthy as well is the sight of the Captain, an egg-shaped individual dressed (barely) in commodious tighty-whities and a cape made from a red window curtain. The product of the vivid imaginations of George and Harold, creators of a series of hand-drawn comix (their spelling), he’s the comic-book superhero the world has been waiting for, though it didn’t know it. As George says, “Most superheroes look like they’re flying around in their underwear. Well, this guy actually does!”

The Captain is the alter ego of the kids’ school principal, a real grump named Krupp (Ed Helms) who can’t stand laughter or those boys. A magic plastic hypno-ring glommed out of a cereal box puts him under the lads’ spell and has him peeling down to his underpants and going forth to, well, mess things up.

With a mad-genius villain named Professor Pippy Pee-Pee Poopypants (Nick Kroll), with monster toilets on the prowl, below-the-belt humor rules here. But it’s naughty, not nasty in tone, though the movie’s (and the books’) rendering of adults as hopelessly humorless dolts is pretty pointed.

The friendship of George and Harold is celebrated, and the cheery vocal work of Hart and Middleditch gives the picture its sprightly spirit.

The peals of preadolescent laughter I heard at the picture’s press screening signaled “Captain Underpants” hits the bull’s-eye with its target audience. Especially when that planet’s name pops out of someone’s mouth.

Go ahead. Try not to laugh.

I dare you.