Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family
Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (Voices of): Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz, Beyonce Knowles, Pitbull, Steven Tyler, Josh Hutcherson
Directed by Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots)
As Kermit once quipped: It's not easy being green. Nothing comes easy in the latest animated film Epic (in theaters today), from Blue Sky Studios, who previously brought us films like Ice Age and Rio. The original tale in which Epic is based - "The Leaf Men and Brave Good Bugs" by William Joyce - is aptly named. But for the film version to be called Epic, it borders on false advertising.
The story focuses on the teenager, Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who calls herself "MK" since her given name is just totally too long and uncool, and stuff. As the movie begins she is arriving to stay with her nerdy scientist father (Jason Sudeikis), whose character may as well be Rick Moranis from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. This frantic geek has dedicated his life - and ruined his professional career - to the belief that a community of "little people" exist in the forest outside his home, waging an unseen war of life and death just out of sight from the human eye.
He correctly estimates that, much like a common house fly is to humans, these creatures just exist moving much faster. In their eyes, us humans move in super slow-motion.
Thus, you can tell Epic was made by humans and not by leaf men, because it moves along at a snail's pace. MK eventually is "shrunk" down and enters the forest world, where indeed there is a literal battle between life and death going on: On one hand, Queen Tara (Beyonce) represents the life and spirit of the forest while the villainous Mandrake (who else but Christoph Waltz?) stands for all things death and decay.
Pulling from successful animated films like The Lion King, Epic tries but fails to re-produce the same kind of movie magic. Tonally, the movie doesn't work on any level...at times it is a deeply serious drama even moving out of the realm of a "family" film. Then we are treated to one-liners given by characters that are not all that funny nor memorable, such as the slug and snail duo, Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd). They are there to act as a sort of Timon and Pumbaa comedy team, but there must not be the same quality of comedy writers in the forest than there are in Simba's neck of the proverbial woods.
The story too, is about as tried and true as an old oak tree. It poises itself as an epic tale, towering above the audience, but it's really just dry and immovable: A tired and sagging relic rooted in failed ideas of grandeur.
Is this the only forest in the world? Are there other leaf men fighting valiantly to overcome others like Mandrake? This "epic" tale is told from such a narrow viewpoint, you almost need the scientist's head-gear-magnifying-glass to find any substance at all.
The movie itself looks stunning in 3D, but aren't all of the animated films starting to? There just isn't much underneath these visuals to get excited about. Epic wants us to look closer, but having done so, it's probably better to just to keep moving.
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