Mar 22, 2017

Trailing Off: "Captain Underpants" (2017)

Welcome to the sporadic column Trailing Off in which I take a look at a trailer from the past week and analyze its potential. This will be done using an obnoxious amount of analyzing and personal thoughts on the cast and crew as well as expectations. I will attempt to highlight films ranging from new blockbusters to lesser known indies and give them their due. Partially to spread awareness, I do believe that there is an art to the sell and will do my best to highlight why these trailers matter or don't with approval (trove) or disapproval (trash). So please stop by, recommend some trailers, and I will see you next time.

Trailer in Discussion

Directed By: David Soren
Written By: Dav Pilkey (Book), Nicholas Stoller (Screenplay)
Starring: Jordan Peele, Nick Kroll, Kevin Hart

- Preamble -

It's hard to believe, but the Captain Underpants series will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. For a controversial cartoon character whose powers are as crude as his name, he's made quite the dent on pop culture. He's fought such juvenile villains as talking toilets and a diabolical professor named Professor Poopypants. Despite its success in print, the fact that it has taken so long to make it to the big screen is pretty peculiar. It should be something that kids easily eat up, especially for those who were the right age during the series' heyday. 
I am one of those people who read the series with a certain devotion. It may not be the greatest literature and the humor is often lowbrow, but what it has is a wonderful escape from the confines of dour pop culture and life. It is there to give you a quick pick me up and inadvertently get children into the magic of reading without making it seem like a big deal. It also teaches about interactive text as well as literary plot devices that will help enrich the little troublemakers out there. For a series that may seem off putting (to the point that it's banned in more placed than "50 Shades of Grey"), it has quite the subtext and creativity on top of doing what most parents who hate it want kids to do: read.
I for one have been looking forward to the movie, and I hope that the film to come will be a delight. Speaking as it comes out in an era where superhero culture is hitting its limit, it will be nice to see another film geared towards the lighter side after this year's equally amusing The LEGO Batman Movie. It is tough to say if kids will cling onto a hero who is basically a literal stripped down satire of comic book culture, but it couldn't hurt. Maybe it will outrank the other franchises and have the last laugh. Whatever the case may be, it's weird that I'm so excited for a movie with pretty much the dumbest sounding character out there (Captain Boomerang notwithstanding).

- Dissection -

What the trailer does very well is that it manages to set up the universe that writer Dav Pilkey captured. There are small gags, such as cartoon physics where hair flies in the air and a window shatters like an old Looney Tunes gag. It's a madcap universe, and it's the one thing that the trailer does especially well. It manages to capture the absurdity of a world where everything is heightened, and the hero is kind of wimpy. I think that the animators take the style to the next level by placing these characters in a more detailed universe where the gags are allowed to be more in depth. As a result, it makes it feel like the best possible example of a Captain Underpants movie, at least in the modern era.
I especially like how there is enough information to give you a sense of the main characters, which include Harold, George, and the principal who turns into the hero. Every one of them has a type of wisecrack that they like to perform in. The voice cast in particular does an excellent job of capturing a sense of chemistry that allows for random asides to land as jokes. Very little feels grounded in dated jokes, and instead have the timeless appeal of characters being clueless or secretly smarter than their underachieving personalities would have you believe.
As a whole, this is clearly a movie geared at the same audience who will see Boss Baby. Besides the fact that both are released by Dreamworks, they both have that silliness and brash personality that feels key to make absurd stories work. While little is seem, Ed Helms definitely feels like the best cast and manages to land many deadpan jokes with a sense of purpose. It's especially funny when he fights an inflatable gorilla and is convinced that he is winning. As long as you know that this is meant to be a silly movie with little logic, it's actually quite charming.

- One Sentence Sell -

Dreamworks gets on the superhero bandwagon with a film about a principal who fights talking toilets and other juvenile villains.

- Trove or Trash -

Again, it could be nostalgia, but it is such an effectively fun and joyful movie. One can only hope that the final product manages to hold as much reverence to the film's tone as this trailer does.

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