Friday, November 1, 2013

Movie Review: Epic

Directed by: Chris Wedge.
Written by: James V. Hart &  William Joyce and Daniel Shere and Tom J. Astle & Matt Ember Inspired by the book by William Joyce.
Starring: Amanda Seyfried (Mary Katherine), Josh Hutcherson (Nod), Colin Farrell (Ronin), Christoph Waltz (Mandrake), Beyoncé Knowles (Queen Tara), Steven Tyler (Nim Galuu), Jason Sudeikis (Bomba), Aziz Ansari (Mub), Chris O'Dowd (Grub), Pitbull (Bufo), Blake Anderson (Dagda), Judah Friedlander (Taxi Driver).

Epic falls into that strange animation no-man’s zone – where’s it’s too plodding and simplistic to appeal to older kids and especially adults, and yet a little too complicated and slowly paced for younger kids. I imagine anyone older than about 8 rolling their eyes throughout Epic at the dullness and obviousness of the story, and yet anyone younger than about 5 will likely be bored by the slow pace, confused by the half developed plot, and perhaps even scared by some of the darkness in the film. So, I guess what I’m saying is if you have 6 or 7 year old, they may like. But I don’t think anyone else will.

The storyline is one that we’ve seen time and again in children’s films and fiction – that of a secret world that co-exists with ours without our knowing it. These types of films can be magical if done right (I’m think of many anime films – most recently The Secret World of Arietty), and deadly dull if done wrong – and unfortunately Epic is the later. The story is about a teenage girl – Mary Katherine, MK for short, who after the death of her mother is sent to live with her father, Bomba. Calling Bomba eccentric would be understating it – he is a botanist who is obsessed with discovering the secret world of little people he is convinced lives in the forest around his house. This obsession cost him everything – his career, his family – but still he won’t give up, because he’s convinced he’s right – and of course he is.

Through a series of events I won’t recap, M.K. is eventually shrunken down and gets drawn into the war of the little people of the forest. The good guys are led by Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), who has given her power to a pod, which must bloom at midnight in order for the forest to continue to thrive. Colin Farrell is Ronin, the head of the Leafmen, who protect her, and Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is the young hotshot who feels the rules don’t apply to him. Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) is the leader of the Boggins, who want the pod to bloom in darkness, because that would bring on an era of death and decay in the forest – and that’s what he likes.

The movie pays some lip service to the idea that forest needs a balance between life and death – an uncommonly intelligent, dark, complex theme for a kid’s movie, but unfortunately that’s all it does – pay brief lip service to it, and then abandons it for a series of action sequences, where the Leafmen and the Boggins fight each other. These scenes are well handled, as far as animated fight sequences go, but there’s so many of them that the film quickly gets repetitive. The animation is pretty good – less cartoony than most animated films, but then again, I like cartoony, so that’s not really a plus for me. The plot is standard, and doesn’t really go anywhere, and the strange romantic relationship between M.K. and Nod that forms is creepy, if you stop and think about it at all.

Overall Epic was more of a bore than anything else. I cannot imagine that kids will like it all that much – it’s a little slow for them. And it’s far too simplistic for adults to really like it either. In short, I don’t think Epic works very well at all – on any level.

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