“Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” (or simply known as Captain Underpants) is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated superhero comedy film based on the children’s novel series Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. The film was produced by DreamWorks Animation, and Scholastic Entertainment with animation production provided by Mikros Image Montreal. It was directed by David Soren, written by Nicholas Stoller and stars the voices of Kevin Hart, Ed Helms, Thomas Middleditch, Nick Kroll, Jordan Peele, and Kristen Schaal. The plot follows two imaginative elementary school prankster students, George Beard and Harold Hutchins (Hart and Middleditch) who hypnotize their mean-spirited principal, Mr. Krupp (Helms), into thinking he is Captain Underpants, a hero in comic books George and Harold write together.
Theodore Shapiro is one of the go to guys when it comes to action comedies or even silly comedies and normally this (alongside animation) is my least favourite genre to write about; but when the score it’s written by Shapiro I just get excited because his scores are often much deeper and exciting than the movie promised; just take the latest example, “Zoolander 2” which was one of my favourite scores of last year and which had nothing to do with monkeying around or slapstick comedy. SO for me, “Captain Underpants” is as exciting as a superhero score.
I am just giddy at the first cue “Comic book opening” because it’s nothing short of epic; it is a gorgeous orchestral piece with just a nod to 80s arcade games at the beginning. “Treehouse” makes me want to jump out of my seat and groove as the keyboard, the electronic beats and the vocalisations invite me to a summer day’s party. These are just the opening cue that set the mood for the entire score. I love it that even when a cue starts low key like “Bromance origin story” there’s a heroic motif hidden in there as an Easter Egg for who listens to the entire score. It’s these little nuggets of film music goodness that pop un in the middle or at the end of cues that make “Captain Underpants” feel like the collection of gifts under the Christmas tree; there’s a cue like “Annihilate the friendship” and I don’t even know where to look and what to love first, the romantic motif, the epic motif or the arcade electronic insert.
For this score Theodore Shapiro found the perfect balance between epic and goofy. While listening to this score I am like a kid who’s ready to laugh because he knows the serious face the adult in front of him is making is just a mask and something funny is about to happen. The strength of “Captain Underpants” lies in the element of surprise and in the certitude that whatever surprise comes, it’s a good one, be it an alien like whistle or a country motif popping up in the middle of a cue. And when things get serious, they get truly serious like in “A hero is born” which is instantly a favourite and earns it’s place among the greatest superhero themes; complete with he choir chanting his name, the horns and the rolling percussion this one will come back in my personal playlists.
The more I listen to this score the more it reminds me of the “Indiana Jones” scores of old with this mix of moods and unstoppable feeling of adventure. “Captain Underpants” is a delightful composition that is exactly what the story about a make belief super hero needed; the score is serious without taking itself too serious; it’s relentless about the fun (just check out “Carnival Conniptions” and you will get hooked) and it fins the perfect balance between epic and comedic. The last two cues “Saving the day” and “The prank for good” are just both fun and spectacular as Theodore Shapiro goes all in orchestrally and all I want to do is dial up the volume and imagine I myself am a superhero because if Captain Underpants can do it, anyone can do it. I don’t need a cape, just the right cue and I found it here. Another win for Theodore Shapiro and a score you won’y forget.
Cue rating: 89 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 34 / 56
Album excellence: 60%
Comic Book Opening
Annihilate the Friendship
Power of the Hypno Ring
A Hero is Born
Bringing Krupp Home
Saving the Day