It's too easy to see all the missed opportunities in a film that lacks focus in both its story and animation
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Stars: 2 out of 4
‘Epic" has a fun premise: Tiny people live in the forest and wage war for their salvation. They fight and trade barbs just as normal-sized humans do, and there's heroism, magic and, of course, love. It's sort of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" meets "A Bug's Life" with mini-humans battling bugs in 3D computer-generated animation.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers take this idea, give it the middle finger, and go no further. No real imagination, creativity or originality is anywhere in sight. Worse, the animation looks awful.
You know those sun-drenched pictures you see, where there's so much brightness in the background that it looks out of focus? Every single frame of "Epic" is like that, with only the foreground in focus, while the background is a blurry mess. As a result, the animation looks cheap, as if DreamWorks and Pixar took their superior animation technology, spit on it and smudged it around to render the final version we see here.
The story, what there is of it, follows troubled teen Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), or M.K. to her friends, as she visits her science-geek father Bomba (Jason Sudeikis). Her mother died years before, and Bomba's convinced that tiny warrior people live in a forest near his home. M.K. chases her father's three-legged dog into the woods, venturing out by herself. In the dark woods, she encounters falling leaves that glow — when she touches them, she gets shrunk down to a miniscule size.
Little does M.K. know she's now in the midst of a ferocious battle. She first encounters Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), who entrusts her with a pod that is the life of the forest. Then, she meets two warrior Leafmen, Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), who tell her the dastardly Boggan Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) wants to seize the magic of the forest and turn it to darkness.
When the animation in a movie is unimpressively so-so, it's even more important for the story to be exciting, but there's not much pizzazz here. There's action, but none of it is spectacular. There's comic relief, from the dog and Aziz Ansari as the slug Mub, but it's not funny enough to make up for the various other shortcomings. There's a short musical number sung by Nim Galuu, a caterpillar voiced by Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, which is kind of "meh," and then Pitbull voices a gangster but doesn't sing at all. Why have Pitbull in your movie if you're not going to let him say "dale" and lead the charge?
All aspects of "Epic" play like a missed opportunity. And here's what's most grating: Blue Sky Studios, which is owned by 20th Century Fox and is responsible for "Rio" and the "Ice Age" franchise, does make sure that the hair on the birds the Leafmen ride, for example, is finely detailed. No doubt it takes time and money to bring computer-generated films to life, but the lack of dynamic visuals and a story with some oomph to it is obvious. Adults will definitely find this a yawner and, even worse, so will kids.