What 'Captain Underpants' can teach us about curmudgeons

WASHINGTON - This weekend I took my son to see Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The DreamWorks animated feature is based on the popular kid-lit series written by Dav Pilky. My son was climbing up the walls in angst after his nap over something fun to do on a hot and sunny Sunday when somehow Captain Underpants came up.

It was 5:45pm on a school night and my household laundry was halfway done. I checked my Fandango app and rather than have a 3 year old go stir crazy on my freshly painted walls, I strapped him in his car seat and dashed to the next showing of the film.

Epic antics

The movie theater is where epic antics really began. The story centers around two friends, George  (voiced by Kevin Hart) and Harold (Thomas Middleditch), who constantly get into trouble with their strict and curmudgeonly elementary school administrator, Principal Krupp (Ed Helms). Their main offense is pulling pranks around the humdrum campus of bored-to-tears students in an effort to spark excitement in their school days.

In George and Harold’s spare time, the two boys write comic books together in their epic tree house, complete with a tricked out juice machine and hammock. This is where their bromance thrives and where the idea for a Captain Underpants character comes about.

Captain Underpants later comes to life after a series of freakish events lead to Hart’s character to hypnotizing Principal Krupp into believing that he is actually the made up super hero.

Hilarity ensues

Along with a large, yet forgivable amount of potty humor, hilarity ensues as the two boys and Captain Underpants fend off an evil rogue science teacher by the name of Professor Poopypants (Nick Kroll) and a giant toilet.

The two boys are driven by their desire to tame the curmudgeon in their lives, Principal Krupp, who is obsessed with crushing their friendship in order to restore order on campus.

A lonely obsession

Why is Principal Krupp obsessed, you may ask? Well, while following the rules are important, audiences see in the film that he is battling a deeper issue—the issue of loneliness.

He sits alone in his office.

He lives alone.

He eats alone.

He commiserates alone.

Maybe, just maybe Principal Krupp wouldn’t be so hell bent on ruining the boys’ bromance if he had a friend he could call his own.  George and Harold ultimately see this void in Principal Krupp’s hollow life and proceed to make their next epic prank one that brings the school principal together with a special someone.

And isn’t this something we can all learn from? Maybe, instead of cursing the office curmudgeon or ostracizing the neighborhood negative Nelly, we should embrace them or help find them someone who will soften their socially-awkward edge.

The conclusion?  Inclusion.

Behavioral science research has proven that social outcasts tend to become people who hurt and, in extreme cases, terrorize others.  The remedy, say researchers, is inclusion.

As my son and I laughed throughout the film—I mean, who can really sit straight-faced when there is a six-foot tall toilet chasing after a man in big white underwear on screen—I also thought about our conversation for the ride home.

I knew it was going to be one centered around teachable moments as we debriefed on the film (that’s just the kind of mom I am). But the questions would be focused on cause and effect of certain behaviors that led Principal Krupp to becoming a curmudgeon.

Why did Principal Krupp do what he did? Why did George and Harold do what they did? How did they help their principal in the end?

The answers make for a happy ending on the silver screen and in real life. Needless to say, we drove off into Sunday night’s sunset with a fresh perspective on curmudgeons, potty humor and all.

Markette Sheppard is host of Great Day Washington, the lifestyle morning show on WUSA 9. She is also a wife, mother of a rambunctious 3-year-old and avid movie lover. You can see more of her film previews and reviews weekdays at 9 am.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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