Film Friday: Captain Underpants

George and Harold are two very good friends, who love playing jokes and have crafted a comic book featuring superhero Captain Underpants. When their school principal grows weary of their pranks and threatens to put them into separate classes they hypnotise him with a plastic ring and convince him he is the rather silly Captain Underpants. Mayhem ensues.

There is a moment in this film when young prankster Harold says to the bad guy, the evil Professor Poopypants – ‘Laughter is the best medicine.’
But Professor Poopypants replies – ‘No, medicine is the best medicine!’
The evil professor wishes to rid the world of laughter but George and Harold are on a mission to stop him, with the help of their superhero-transformed principal, Captain Underpants.

This is a gloriously silly, madcap movie. The kind that made my daughter and I laugh out loud. Movie critic Mark Kermode has a ‘6 laugh’ test for comedies, well for us this was more of a ’36 laugh’ film. At least. Now I know that it’s dangerous to recommend comedies, as what makes one person chuckle or guffaw could well make another person wince and groan. All I can say is that I have not laughed so much in a long long time. The film made me so happy I was very tempted to tell the shop assistant I met later that I had just seen it, and how wonderful it was. But I didn’t, I kept my stiff upper lip in place. Sadly.

Laughter, I’m told, (here comes the science bit) releases endorphins in the body and apparently that is very good for us. Laughter really can be great medicine. A dentist once asked me if there were any jokes in the Bible. The truth is there are many – but jokes are always cultural, and a joke explained is never funny. Many of Jesus’s parables are laden with comedy. Take the Prodigal Son for example. Early in the story when the younger son comes to his father and asks for his part of the inheritance, amazingly the father says ‘YES!’ Instead of cuffing the boy round the ear. That would have made the crowd laugh. As would the idea of the father hitching up his skirts and running down the road to hug his boy at the end of the story. It was a ridiculous notion, a little like the Queen jumping out of a helicopter at the London Olympic Games. Jesus knew that laughter would help his listeners remember his life-changing, life affirming good news. He could also say some very powerful, hard-hitting things, if they were wrapped up in funny stories. Clearly he was lively, warm and animated, as children loved to be near him. Humour is powerful, it can also be healing, reconciling and holy.

What makes you laugh, I wonder?

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