It takes a lot of nerve to (un-ironically) call your film Epic, especially when it’s set on a forest floor, with characters the size of ants.
And while the latest from Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age, Rio) may not quite live up to its title, it’s still a solid romp that will keep the under 10 crowd entertained and the adults from nodding off. In the tradition of kiddie fare like FernGully and Disney’s current Tinker Bell series, Epic‘s focus is squarely on both the importance and beauty of the forest’s flora and fauna.
Following the (off-screen) death of her mother, full-sized human girl M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) heads to the country to visit her off-kilter dad (Jason Sudeikis), whose been spending all his time searching in the woods for proof that tiny people exist. The tiny people do exist, it turns out, and their population is in jeopardy; if the Forest Queen (Beyonce) can’t name an heir by morning, the resident bad guys will take over, and everything that’s green and pretty will wither and die.
As luck would have it, though, M.K. magically gets shrunk down to “tiny people” size, learns the ways of the forest, and helps save the day. Dreams come true, families grow stronger, and bad guys are vanquished. (Hey, it’s a kid’s movie– did you really think there wouldn’t be a happy ending?)
As rote as Epic may be at its core, though, it’s still a fairly entertaining journey. Director Chris Wedge (Ice Age) creates an absolutely amazing world of light and color– almost what you’d expect if Hayao Miyazaki abandoned hand-drawn animation and turned on a computer. Wedge’s work with water and intricate flowers is especially impressive, and damned if you don’t find yourself thinking that you’re looking at the real thing more often than not.
The cast turns in better-than-average performances all around, including Seyfried and Sudeikis, plus Colin Farrell as the leader of the good guys, Josh Hutcherson as his right-hand soldier, and the snarly Christoph Waltz as the leader of the evil Bogguns. The real stars of the show, though, are the Timon and Pumbaa-like comic relief of the outfit. Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd voice a slug & snail duo who steal the show right out from under everyone.
The only real issue with Epic is the story itself. Predictable almost to annoyance, there’s not much here that is terribly inventive or complex, and the standard fairy tale stereotypes abound. Plus, the screenplay is yet another that follows the age-old formula stating that the more people who write a script, the more the scatter-shot it will be. Here we have five writers, including William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians), who also wrote the original book.
Epic doesn’t have the emotional heft of Pixar or the zany comedy of recent Dreamworks Animation films, but it will certainly keep the troops in their seats for an hour and forty minutes. Epic? No. Better than decent? Absolutely.