Epic is funny, entertaining, and yet ultimately forgettable.
20th Century Fox Animation is not exactly known for developing a long line of successful animated fare. With the exception of the fun but unremarkable Ice Age series, Fox is still searching for a stable of animated franchises. Their newest candidate Epic is not the kind of film that stands out or dares to be noticed, as so many need to be given the crowded space they currently share at the multiplex. And while it's entertaining, one could easily miss Epic in a lineup of big summer films.
Based on the William Joyce children's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, our film follows the exploits of the teenager MK (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) and her estranged father Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), as both uncover a world of tiny creatures living in a nearby forest. Bomba's research to prove this race exists has taken a toll on his family, as the mother first separated then died of an unknown reason, forcing MK to return home to deal with her crackpot father. What the motherless family soon realizes is that a war is raging for control of that same forest between the peaceful Leafmen and the evil Boggins, led by Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz). Mandrake will do whatever's necessary to kill the Leafmen's Queen Tara (voiced by singer Beyonce Knowles), who must soon choose an heir. She is protected by her childhood friend and Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell), leader of the Leafmen and stand-in father to Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson). His father died at the hands of Mandrake and has since become a fierce but unpredictable warrior. When MK is accidentally shrunk into the Leafmen's world, she becomes caught in the middle of the conflict, and must work to save both the forest and any chances she might have to return home to her father.
Epic is nothing you haven't seen before, complete with yet another enchanted forest, the comedy team, the serious moment, and a resolution where good triumphs over evil. But Epic also contains two death scenes and a twist of an ending that helps to slightly redeem itself. It's unlikely that girls will relate to MK as they did with Brave, mostly because her relationship with the father and the untimely end of her mother are never fully explored. You know MK and dad don't get along, and that the mother died, but that's about as deep as it gets. Separation and divorce have unfortunately become front-burner items for today's kids, and Epic's writing team including Tom J. Astle missed a golden opportunity to carry above the film's merely entertaining aspects. Blame should also be placed at the feet of animated veteran Director Chris Wedge (Ice Age series), who fails to inspire any real emotion from his voice actors. An animated film relies so heavily on it actors, and Wedge's mostly flat cast just doesn't get it done. Sudeikis and Aziz Ansari (as a very funny slug) are the only bright spots here, with the normally very good Farrell, Waltz, and Seyfried leading a charge of unimpressive performances.
Instead of stretching the boundaries of the genre, Epic is the kind of animated film that Fox doesn't quite get right. In a summer filled with strong competition, films like this are churned out by studios to merely entertain. The film misses a golden opportunity to better develop the strained father/daughter relationship, settling instead on less-memorable action and comedic gags. Families will be entertained by Epic; just don't expect to remember a thing about it afterwards. Epic is rated PG and has a runtime of 102 minutes.
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