Here’s Why You Need to Go See Captain Underpants—After Wonder Woman, Of Course
While we grant the Amazonian superhero Wonder Woman our veneration, there’s another superhero who deserves our hoopla too.
Go pay your respects to Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. Why?
The source material’s author Dav Pilkey is an ADHD icon.
And his diagnosis extends to his protagonists: George Beard and Harold Hutchins. This passage in a later book speaks volumes about Pilkey’s relationship with his ADHD.
“George and Harold had been diagnosed with [ADHD] when they were in the second grade. At the time, George’s dad had explained to the boys that people with ADHD are usually more creative than ordinary people … George and Harold wore their diagnosis like a badge of honor.”
Who’s to say George and Harold’s canonical diagnosis didn’t cross over into the movie verse?
Harold is canonically gay in the books.
In the final book, it is revealed that Harold grows up to happily married to a husband with adopted children.
A black character shares equal footing with a white protagonist.
George Beard stands on equal footing with Harold Hutchins in the narrative. He does not play the role of supporting character. He’s not relegated to the Black Best Friend role. Since their debut in the first book, released in 1997, Harold and George are the protagonists.
Despite being far-from-didactic, the movie places an emphasis on friendship.
Did I mention that George and Harold have an adorable relationship and they’re both comfortable with each other?
Not unlike the (often banned) books, it takes shots at the school system.
The movie adaptation makes a point that Principal Krupp spent more on prison doors over the arts department.
It finds it okay to shamelessly laugh at “Uranus.”
It exhibits some experimental animation.
The CGI is crisp, but the doodled hand-drawn segments can make a traditional animation fan squee. Also, a live-action hand-puppet sequence, with a dash of stop-motion, must be seen to be believed.
Weird Al Yankovic did the theme song.
Yes, the singer who was referenced in the books got to compose a song for the movie.
It ain’t stainless perfect, but hey…
Captain Underpants is not the four-star, critically acclaimed Best Picture nod-worthy piece of art. It can be undisciplined in the pacing and gag-after-gag delivery, and the story maneuvers like a Mad-Libs plot.
Captain Underpants does not shoot for the bar of the emotionally evocative like Inside Out, or narrative ambitions like a Studio Ghibli film. But it celebrates imagination and the crude-sketchy brainstorming mode from which child creativity is fueled. It’s designed by adults who knew how to access their inner child and weren’t afraid of coloring outside the lines. Captain Underpants is comfortable in its own skin—or briefs.
With its misspellings and the doodle-like nature of George and Harold’s comics, we should do as Dav Pilkey says: “Encourage kids to be creative without worrying about being perfect.”
(featured image: Dreamworks)
Caroline Cao is a Houstonian Earthling surviving under the fickle weather of Texas. When not angsting over her first poetry manuscript or a pilot screenplay about space samurais, she enjoys acting in cheesy improv performances for BETA Theater, experimenting with ramen noodles, and hollering vocal flash fics on Instagram. She runs a blog with writing and scripting services and lends her voice to Birth.Movies.Death and The Script Lab. She’s also lurking in the shadows waiting for you to follow her on Twitter or Tumblr and read her Star Wars fanfiction.
Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!
—The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—