Captain Underpants Blu-ray Review
The First Epic Movie? Hopefully the first of many
Dreamworks' Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie provides a colourful and surprisingly witty adaptation of the character.With energetic work from Turbo director David Soren, it's really Nicholas Stoller's screenplay that shines in this piece, with Stoller having a plentiful background in (admittedly hit and miss) adult comedies, and taking a Sorkin-for-kids-style witty banter approach which gives the production some impressive momentum. Based on the popular books, this (hopefully) first movie introduces us to the imaginative world of school kids George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), who have made a name for themselves with their pranks, but take it to the next level when they hypnotise the irascible school principal (Ed Helms) into thinking that he's a real-life superhero, Captain Underpants, and who has to take on the evil Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll), who wants to rid the world of laughter.Although the distinctive animation style takes a while to get used to - ostensibly taking a fairly basic approach to animation in order to remain faithful to the book art (indeed author Dav Pilkey was reportedly very happy with the adapatation) - Captain Underpants has an energy which is reminiscent of the Despicable Me movies, hitting you with an opening sequence packed with pure unadulterated childish gleeful imagination, and seldom letting up across the brisk 88 minute runtime. The film still feels substantial because it buzzes along so frenetically, hitting you with wildly vivid and vibrant setpieces and some very different sub-sections that include an excellent sock-puppet sequence, as well as some imaginative book-style interludes. A wickedly imaginative first outing.
Picture QualityUniversal's Region Free UK Blu-ray release of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie delivers an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen. Although the UK once again lose out on getting to explore the benefits of HDR and WCG on an Ultra HD Blu-ray release (there's one Stateside), the Blu-ray still delivers a very colourful and vibrant piece which looks like it would take some serious effort to best.
It's hard to see how this could look any better
Despite the ostensibly simplistic animation style, there's a surprising amount of subtle detail on offer, rounding out the characters with impressive shadowing, bringing striking texture to the hair, and allowing the background school environment to pop with fabulous nuances. It's the colour scheme that's striking though, taking a page almost literally out of the book, and delivering a barrage of primaries, which are vibrant and vivid across the board, popping with vitality. With strong black levels, and a clean and crisp presentation, it's hard to see how this could look any better.
Sound QualityThe accompanying soundtrack gets surprisingly impressive treatment too with this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which, as with the video, would be likely hard to top, even with an immersive option (which the US 4K edition provides courtesy of Atmos). Delivering the core aural ingredients with both power and precision, it's exceptional work.
Exceptional audio work
Dialogue gets clearly and coherently disseminated across the frontal array, whilst effects are as wildly energetic as you'd expect from the imaginative narrative, whipping you into a frenzy with the thrilling and exciting elements and the sheer bombast of it all, eagerly delivered through the surrounds and given further weight by the LFE input. It's a fantastic, wickedly over-the-top sound design that perfectly marries up to the production, benefiting from a suitably engaging score underpinning the whole affair.
ExtrasThe extras provide a solid enough offering
Oddly, when compared to both the US Ultra HD Blu-ray and the US Blu-ray, the disappointment comes less from the video and audio - which seem hard to beat - and more from the extras, which have been stripped down from the more extensive US package. There's little reason for it, but thankfully the extras we do get are the best core elements, with the short but fun little Captain Underpants Motion Comic kickstarting the proceedings, a few minutes of Featurette looking at both Captain Underpants and Professor Poopypants, a reasonably healthy selection of Deleted Scenes (with unfinished effects) and a Stills Gallery. It's a solid enough offering.
Blu-ray VerdictCaptain Underpants is a wickedly imaginative film and a great Blu-ray
This First 'Epic' Movie from Captain Underpants gets excellent treatment by Universal on this UK Region Free Blu-ray (notwithstanding the decision not to bother releasing it in 4K), offering up excellent video and audio and a few extras to boot. Whether you're a fan of the books or haven't even heard of them, this is worth checking out, and will keep children across a wide age range happy, and adults quietly amused in the background.
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