By Dan Metcalf
Clipper Film Correspondent
Epic (20th Century Fox
Rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language.
Starring (voices of) Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler.
Written by William Joyce, James V. Hart, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember and Chris Wedge, based on the children's book by William Joyce.
Directed by Chris Wedge.
I'm not a fan of judging books by their covers, but most movie titles are strategically selected to inspire judgements about their content (not exactly ambiguous). At first glance you'd expect a movie titled “Epic” would be just that – epic. Closer inspection reveals something else entirely. Epic is the latest computer-animated feature from Blue Sky, the same studios that brought us the Ice Age series and Rio.
Amanda Seyfried voices Mary Katherine (or “M.K.” as her character prefers), a teen girl forced to live with her estranged (and strange) father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudekis) in a home on the edge of the woods after her mother passes away. MK's dad has spent his life trying to prove that little people live in the woods, an obsession that leads to the separation of his family, and most of society. Shortly after MK arrives, she finds herself shrunken to fairy size by a magical wood fairy queen (Beyonce' Knowles) and is entrusted with guarding a magical flower bulb that will give power to a new queen.
MK meets the young and handsome Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a would-be wood fairy “leaf man” (fairy military) who has trouble with discipline and authority. The commander of the leaf men is Ronin (Colin Farrell), a stern authoritarian who has done his best to raise Nod since his parents passed away when he was young. MK, Nod and Ronin are joined by two slugs named Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd) who are supposed to keep the magical bulb moist.
The queen's main duty in life was to use her magic to keep the evil “Boggans” from turning the entire forest into a desolate wasteland. The Boggans are led by the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) who vows to steal away the bulb's powers. The heroes do all they can to avoid Mandrake and his minions as they travel to meet with a chubby caterpillar and keeper of the fairy land records Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler) so that the bulb's powers can be harnessed for good. In the mean time, the good guys take a detour to Professor Bomba's house, where MK tries to convince her dad that his theories were all true.
A big battle takes place at Nim Galuu's place, where the forces of good must rise up to defeat the Boggans.
Back to judging books (and flms) by their covers. Epic is a movie that does not live up to its title. It has some elements of an epic tale, but the core of its plot is simplistic and unoriginal, borrowing several ideas from stories like Ferngully, Lord of the Rings and The Borrowers. Epic is a tale that leans on a lot of cliche's, like the use of fat characters for comic relief (the slugs and caterpillar) – because fat is funny, right?
Epic's computerized scenery of a miniature woodland world can be appealing at times, but the convoluted and predictable story obscures most of the beauty. The animation also seems a little unnatural and hurried, unlike other Blue Sky features like Rio and the Ice Age series.
Little children may get swept up in the magical world of fairies, but Epic is not up to par with Disney's direct-to-video Tinkerbell series, a much better choice for children's imagination.