Film review: EPIC, from Built For Speed

Epic, the latest big-budget animated adventure from Blue Sky studios which gave us the Ice Age films among others, is based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs.

In a storyline that may prove confusing for littlies, Mary Katherine or MK (Amanda Seyfried) returns to her family home to visit her ultra-nerdy scientist dad (Jason Sudeikis) who had driven away his now deceased wife with his obsessive pursuit of a race of tiny fairy-like forest people. When MK stumbles across the fairies or Leafmen as they’re known and is magically reduced by their queen (Beyonce) to Leaf person size, she teams up with the heroic warrior Ronin (Colin Farrell) and upstart pretty-boy (Josh Hutcherson) in a battle to save the forest home from the evil environment-destroying insectoid Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his minions known as Boggans.

The plot and in particular the way in which our heroes use a magic flower pod to try and resurrect the forest after the destruction wrought by Mandrake, is convoluted and unlikely to engage audiences.  The story, however, plays second fiddle to the computer-generated spectacle of the Leafman world.  Epic contains some of the most remarkable computer animation witnessed on the big screen. The scenes of the Leafmen engaging in aerial dog fights against Mandrake’s bat squadrons are astonishingly fluid, dynamic and realistic.  Some of these scenes, however, may prove a little violent and scary for really young children.

Director Chris Wedge (Robots, Ice Age) has conjured a sparkling and elaborate fairy-tale world that evokes genuine wonder.  Seeking broad appeal, though, he undermines the film’s pure fantasy elements with contemporary references including gratuitous product placement, a goofball comedy double-act of a snail called Grubb (O’Dowd) and a slug named Mub (Aziz Ansari) and a bullfrog pimp voiced by Pitbull.

Older audiences will note the influence on Epic of numerous other films: there’s the feisty, resourceful young girl cast into a fantasy world and trying to get home just like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the geeky scientist pursuing tiny people just like Honey I Shrunk the Kids, indigenous eco-warriors trying to protect their homeland as in Avatar-like and a comedy duo in O’Dowd and Aziz that could have come straight out of A Bug’s Life.

The voice cast do a fine job with Seyfried investing the perky MK with a likeable mix of humour and resilience.  A surprise but welcome inclusion is Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler as a wise old caterpillar who, of course, manages to belt out a bluesy number.

The best parts of Epic are, at least on a visual level, some of the finest moments of animated fantasy we’ve seen this year but its uneven tone, misplaced humour and unnecessarily dark moments prevent it from being completely successful as a family-oriented film.

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: PG.

Director(s): Chris Wedge

Release date: 27th June 2013

Running time:  102 mins.

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