I really wanted to like “Epic.” I love walking through the forest and I am more than happy to imagine a group of tiny warriors riding on the backs of hummingbirds and fighting on the side of Mother Nature.
The cast is likable enough, the animation is top shelf and I was even willing to forgive the fact that the story of a human shrunk down to discover a magical, miniature, woodland world struggling for survival is blatantly ripped off from another animated family film (1992’s “FernGully: The Last Rainforest”).
The problem with “Epic” is that even though all the pieces are in place, there is just no spark and a movie that wants us to revel in the wonders of the natural world is surprisingly lifeless.
The story centers on teenaged Mary Katherine, or M.K. for short, who is voiced by Amanda Seyfried. M.K. has recently lost her mother and ventures out to a lonely house in the woods to reconnect with her estranged father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis).
Bomba is a crackpot scientist whose crazy theories about a tiny civilization living in the forest have cost him both professionally and personally. The relationship between M.K. and Bomba forms the heart of the movie, but unfortunately, it gets short shrift because his nutty ideas turn out to be true.
Out in the woods, a race of noble warriors called leaf men are led by Ronin (Colin Farrell) who, as plot contrivances dictate, has his hands full with a promising but aimless recruit named Nod (Josh Hutcherson).
The leaf men are locked in a constant struggle against a group of bad guys called Boggans who follow the orders of the sinister Mandrake (Christoph Waltz).
The motivation of the Boggans is kind of vague and from what I can tell I guess they just want to rot the forest. Maybe? Anyway, all that’s important is that they are bad and they want to stop the Queen of the forest (Beyonce Knowles) from selecting an heir, which involves the blooming of a magical flower bud.
Unfortunate events disrupt this process and result in M.K. being shrunk down to leaf-man size and winding up with the fate of the forest literally in her hands.
Along the way, M.K. meets an amorous slug (Aziz Ansari), an ambitious snail (Chris O’Dowd), and a freewheeling sage-like caterpillar voiced by Steven Tyler (!).
The biggest problem with “Epic” is that it doesn’t present a world that feels wondrous and ancient and lived in, but instead presents a world that feels like it was workshopped over a long lunch meeting.
I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the fact that five separate people have a “written by” credit as this film is clearly not the inspired vision of a single creative mind.
The movie certainly has its fun, “Honey, I Shrunk a Spunky Teenaged Girl” moments including an encounter with a cute field mouse that at the comparative size of a polar bear becomes a ferocious predator.
“Epic” just isn’t all that clever or original and while it does perform the admirable and baseline function of a family film by keeping kids distracted for an hour and a half, there’s not really much more to sink your teeth into beyond its incredibly average averageness.
So maybe instead of going to see this movie you could save some money and take your kids out into the actual woods. The field mice may not be as impressive and the sparrows may not come equipped with tiny saddles, but you can bring your own snacks and the 3D is absolutely spectacular.
“Epic” is rated PG for mild action, some scary images, and brief rude language.