Celebrating Captain Underpants, DreamWorks’ Overlooked Ode to Friendship & Creativity

Captain Underpants movie
Captain Underpants movie

“Dude, I love you!
Bro, I love you!
Man, I love you!”

So goes the chorus of A Friend Like You by Andy Grammer, the end credits song of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. This song was specifically recorded for the film’s soundtrack, which makes sense considering how much the franchise revolves around the friendship between its two main characters, George and Harold.

Despite being the title character, the red cape-wearing superhero decidedly takes a backseat to the two boys’ shared love for laughter, comics, and each other.

Released in 2017, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie revolves around George and Harold, two fourth-graders who accidentally hypnotize their strict principal into thinking he’s a superhero of their creation. Despite the title, the movie only ever got a Netflix show afterward with some specials, but 2024 has provided us with some stellar news: Dog Man, a spin-off of the Captain Underpants books, is getting its own movie adaptation slated to release this January 31, 2025.

It’s not exactly a second movie, and George and Harold might not even be in it all that much given how they’re the in-canon Dog Man authors. However, it does remind me how fantastic of a film the first Captain Underpants was, and how much DreamWorks wanted to make the film adaptation of the book series.

The company had been interested in the movie rights to the series since 1997, even going so far as to give author and illustrator Dav Pilkey a tour around the studio while everyone wore underpants over their trousers. When Pilkey was finally ready to sell those rights in 2011, DreamWorks Animation acquired them in an auction, and six years later, Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie premiered, earning an impressive 87% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately, the film was also released alongside Wonder Woman, which resulted in a modest $126 million against a budget of $38 million. Still, nobody can deny that the film was made with absolute love and care from its filmmakers. The animated comedy film is a joyous ride from its first minute to its last, and works well as both its own thing and an adaptation of a beloved children’s book series.

The Captain Underpants books remain some of the most creative books you can give to a young kid. From their fourth wall breaks to their flip-o-rama to their cartoony illustrations, Dav Pilkey truly created something special that resonated with kids, specifically. Like many others, I still have sweet memories of sharing these books with my grade school classmates, even the self-proclaimed non-readers.

DreamWorks Animation couldn’t mess this up — if they wanted to do the book series justice, they had to capture its high energy and unashamedly silly humor, and capture those they did. The Captain Underpants film is frenetic and playful in all the best ways possible, with several scenes feeling straight out of an entry in the book series, and even people who’ve never read the books found themselves unable to resist the film’s charms.

However, this title doesn’t just succeed as a goofy comedy. It’s also a genuine celebration of friendship, laughter, and creativity, and how those three can perfectly match up like puzzle pieces to create the most wonderful of pictures.

George and Harold are the heart of Captain Underpants. Their friendship begins with the discovery of a shared sense of humor — set to a score track entitled Bromance Origin Story, by the by — and it’s been kept strong by the two making comics together in their treehouse. These comics aren’t just ways to pass the time for the two, it’s their joyful method of self-expression, and through this comes a sense of understanding and closeness between them.

It’s a rare but marvelous thing to meet someone on your exact wavelength, someone who feels the same way about the things that make you light up inside. Going back to the film’s end credits song, Andy Grammer then sings, “You’re my homie, no one knows me like you know me,” perfectly describing how George and Harold have a language no one else can understand.

These friendships only get rarer the more we age, so the film celebrating such is a wonderful reminder for both kids and adults to cherish these friendships when they do appear in our lives.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a frequently overlooked movie in DreamWorks’s animation library, but Dog Man’s release might encourage more animation fans to give this gem of an adaptation a chance. It’s a fast and funny film made by creatives who have clearly held on tightly to their inner child. Should Dog Man do well, too, it might hopefully give this franchise the second epic entry it deserves.

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