A COGNITIVE behavioural therapist might consider the relationship between best friends George Beard and Harold Hutchins to be dangerously co-dependent.
And their reaction to being assigned to different classrooms does seem rather extreme.
Freud would certainly have a field day with the pair’s obsession with scatological humour.
But screenwriter Nicholas Stoller (Get Him To the Greek, Bad Neighbours 2) finds plenty to celebrate in George and Harold’s creative if infantile rebellion.
While the cinematic debut of Dav Pilkey’s much-loved characters is clearly targeted at 8 to 13-year-olds, their adult chaperones will still appreciate the pair’s anarchic charm.
In an era defined by helicopter parents and overscheduled offspring, the authority-testing pranksters might even be considered to be gently subversive.
Especially in a film that acknowledges the importance of play.
George (Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch) spend every spare hour (and a good deal of classroom time) amusing each other — either with elaborate practical jokes or by inventing new adventures for their ridiculous comic book creation, Captain Underpants.
Most superheroes, the pair observe, get around in their underwear. In this context, their plus-sized creation’s voluminous white Y-fronts have a warped kind of logic.
While George and Harold’s stories reflect their immature grasp on human relationships, they also contain some elementary grade truths (it’s tempting to read them as junior versions of Stoller and his professional playmates, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen et al, all of whom have gone on to fashion successful careers out of such playful collaborations.)
In Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, a humourless, mean-spirited principal by the name of Benjamin Krupp (Ed Helms) has made life singularly unpleasant for the two boys and their fellow students.
The pair’s elaborate pranks are the only thing that lend any colour to an otherwise grey, institutionalised existence … until a Turbo Toilet invented by super-smart teacher’s snitch Melvin Sneedly (Jordan Peele) catches them in the act.
Now he has the necessary evidence, Principal Krupp signs the paperwork to split up the inseparable pair.
Faced with the end of the world as they know it, George and Harold hypnotise Krupp into thinking he’s Captain Underpants with the help of a plastic ring they found in a cereal box.
But having turned their principal into an affable dimwit, they are faced with an even greater foe in the form of an evil scientist named Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) who intends to eradicate laughter from the planet altogether.
All of which leads to an explosive climax involving a giant toilet fuelled by toxic canteen waste.
Seldom has the link between Uranus jokes and the survival of mankind been drawn so convincingly.
Captain Underpants opens on Thursday (September 21).
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS: THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE (G)
Director: David Soren
Starring: Kevin Hart, Thomas Middleditch, Ed Helms
Verdict: Turns kindergarten humour into an art form
Originally published as Toilet humour with a fart of gold