On the surface “epic” seems to have all the ingredients of an enduring modern animated story. There’s a queen alongside strong female characters. A nifty slogan, “Many leaves, one tree: we’re all individuals, but we’re all connected.” There’s square jawed warriors, a Danny Elfman score, some comedy, a sneering villain, an eco message, adventure, some really famous people doing voices and even a heart tugging story of a dead mother and distracted father. Imagine what Pixar could do with those fixings.
You’ll have to keep on imagining because this isn’t a Pixar film. It’s a co-production between Twentieth Century Fox Animation and Blue Sky Studios, and it could have used some of the Pixar magic.
When Mary Katherine’s (Amanda Seyfried) mother passes away she is sent to live with her estranged father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), a wingy scientist whose career and marriage were ruined by his “delusional” belief in a tiny, advanced woodland society. She doesn’t buy in to her father’s theories until one day she chases the dog into the forest and lands in the middle of an epic battle.
The ethereal, earthy Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) and her Leaf-Men lead by Ronin (Colin Farrell) are fighting the Boggans, evil creatures governed by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) who wants to destroy the forest and rule the desiccated remains. Using some Mother Nature style magic the Queen shrinks Mary Katherine down to pixie size so she can help save the forest.
“epic” contains some beautiful and surreal animation—mushroom men and the like—but the story is so blandly predictable it makes “FernGully” look like “Lord of the Rings.”
Character work is nonexistent, with no exceptional voices save for Chris O’Dowd as the comedic relief in the form of Grub, a snail with a flair for the ladies and one liners, Beyoncé as the Queen and Waltz as the over enunciating villain. Other than those key players the voices are as bland as the story.
Kids may enjoy the animation, although toddlers might be freaked out by the teeming hordes of Boggans, who are a cross between a bat and one of Ray Harryhausen’s creations.
“epic” feels like a missed opportunity; a film that spent too much time perfecting the visuals, but not enough on creating epic characters or story.