A magical looking film, "Epic" might not be as "epic" as the filmmaker’s intentions and it might not have the lasting effect that other animated films have had, but it is a well-made piece of entertainment that will appeal to kids and socially conscious adults equally.
Directed by Chris Wedge ("Ice Age"), the film is a sort of combo "The Borrowers" and "Ferngully." Based loosely on co-writer William Joyce’s book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs" as well as an idea Wedge and Joyce developed out of an exhibition of 100-year-old fantasy paintings they saw, "Epic" tells the story of a girl named M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) whose mother has recently passed away and is now forced to live with her eccentric father Professor Boombah (Jason Sudekis of "Saturday Night Live").
He’s eccentric, you see, because he has long held the belief that there are tiny humans living in the wilderness that keep the balance of nature alive. Of course, M.K. thinks he’s nuts and would rather not be living with a crazy person, but that all changes when she is witness to same strange goings-on herself. When she is off searching for her missing dog, she stumbles into the middle of a battle between the well-meaning Leafmen and the terrible Boggans - forces of Evil bent on destroying the forest. There, the benign Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) materializes and not only tasks M.K. with saving the forest, but also shrinks her down to their size. Suddenly dad’s crazy notions don’t seem so whacky and before you know it, M.K. is having a life or death adventure where the balance of nature is up for grabs.
The film deftly moves between the normal-size world and the "unseen-world" as it tells two stories at once until they converge. Both hold our interest and have characters that are engaging and fun. But it’s that special world that Wedge and Joyce have created that is truly spectacular and the 3D enhances this experience well. The innovative way that the small world co-exists in secret with our world is both clever and beautiful, and there are a number of stunning sequences (and worlds) throughout the film.
The only real problem is that about two-thirds of the way into the film, the narrative becomes predictable and the action becomes more common. That said, there are many scenes of humor and adventure that will delight forest-dwellers of all ages.
The voice work here is exceptional.Seyfried is almost unrecognizable as the petulant teenager who opens her eyes to a larger world. Colin Farrell commands his Irish brogue into a stalwart presence as Ronin - a Leafmen commander who is in love with Queen Tara and who had become a father figure to an orphaned teenage boy named Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Nod, like M.K., is trying to find his place after losing someone he holds dear as well, and it is this common ground that sparks their romance. Rounding out the cast are the hilarious Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari as Grub and Mub, two slugs that are tasked with watching over pods that hold the key to the forest’s future. Party bug and keeper of the magic scrolls, Nim, is played by Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler, while the evil Mandrake is portrayed by Christoph Waltz with his trademark devilish wit. Beyonce does seem to stand out here as her voice is fairly recognizeable, but it is an ethereal performance that befits the character. It’s also nice that an African-American character takes center stage as the one who keeps the forest alive and blooming.
The real magic to this film, though, are the visuals by Blue Sky. An enchantingly detailed world of invention and whimsy, it truly is a feast for the eyes. The story falters here and there and the message may get muddy, but it’s an eye-popping journey just the same and is sure to please kids of all ages.