17 year-old M.K. (voice of Amanda Seyfried) has just about had it with her estranged dad absent-minded Professor Bomba's (voice of Jason Sudeikis) obsession with an unseen civilization he says lives in the forest, when she's suddenly and quite literally shrunk down to size. M.K. gets a first hand look at what her dad's been searching for at a critical point in time - every 100 years Queen Tara (voice of Beyoncé Knowles) chooses a pod which will release a new Queen to guard the green - and the evil Boggans, led by Mandrake (voice of Christoph Waltz), are determined to steal it in a battle against the Leafman which will be "Epic."
How epic you find "Epic" may depend on how many similar films, like "Ferngully," "Avatar," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" or "The Spiderwick Chronicles," you've been exposed to. The film even has faint echoes of the far superior "Rise of the Guardians," with its unseen heroes fighting for light over the darkness. Five credited writers have applied the occasional bit of wit and charming supporting animal creatures, but the main story they're adorning has all been seen before and is a bit of a bore.
"Epic" begins with a bit of promise. As what we know to be a Boggan splats onto a windshield, M.K. frets in the back of it cab taking her to dad's remote rambling Victorian. Her father's research has branded him a madman, causing the disintegration of his family, and although his and M.K.'s reunion is genuine, soon his pursuits are his only focus and a dispirited M.K. decides to head for home. The family's old one-eyed, three-legged dog Ozzy, who has trouble with depth perception, gets out of the house just as she's leaving, though, and when M.K. races after him, the adventure which will become a bonding experience begins.
Meanwhile we've been acclimated with Moonhaven, where Princess Tara lives guarded by the Leafman led by Ronin (voice of Colin Farrell), a man going through his own form of parental disconnect with his best rider Nod (voice of "The Hunger Games'"Josh Hutcherson). And just when things should begin to get epic, anything resembling wit is overshadowed by going through the motions of saving the forest. Things are far more interesting when we stick with Bomba, who, thankfully, sends this tale out, his daughter now working by his side with the full cooperation of the little people. (Yes, the film is fully loaded for a sequel.)
The movie is blandly pretty with its Munchkin-like flower people and saddled hummingbirds. 3D is generally effective for flight sequences, but the rapid beating of hummingbird wings and fight action often renders as a blur. Light diffusion effects just look cloudy. But taking a page from Disney, we have a delightful snail Grub (voice of "Bridesmaids'" Chris O'Dowd) and slug Mub (voice of 'Parks and Rec's' Aziz Ansari) with fanciful delusions. Although he has no voice, Ozzy steals every scene he's in. But even some of the animal creatures are less than inspired, like the straight-out-of-Alice-in-Wonderland caterpillar Nim Galuu (voice of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler) whose purpose is never satisfactorily explained despite the mythic status appointed him or the bullfrog Bufo (voice of rapper Pitbull), who could have been completely excised from the film with no consequence.
Director Chris Wedge of Blue Sky's "Ice Age" movies gets inconsistent vocal performances from his cast as well. O'Dowd and Anzari are a hoot (the animators have great fun with their eye stalks) and Sudeikis brings the right level of excited chaos to Bomba. In the tiny role of M.K.'s cab driver, '30 Rock's' Judah Friedlander stand out. Farrell is justly earnest and dignified against Knowles' lighter touch. But Seyfriend and Hutcherson are merely servicable and Waltz, of all people, is an utterly generic villain.
"Epic" isn't a bad film so much as a largely uninspired one. It's more "Timid-with-a-little-bit-of-pluck."
Robin did not see this film.
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