Chris Wedge’s Epic is pleasant to look at it—on occasion it’s considerably more than just pleasant. It has a pleasant little story—and a responsible little ecological message. Words like “pleasant” and “little” are what readily come to mind when I think about the movie. While those words are fine in themselves, they’re not the words that ought to be coming to mind in connection with a film calling itself Epic. Actually, I have no earthly idea why the thing is called Epic. It isn’t one in any sense, and there’s no evidence that it ever attempted to be one. My guess is it appealed to the marketing people more than a truer title, Reasonably Pleasant Animated Kiddie Movie. It vaguely reminded me of things in the children’s section of the library when I was a kid. (I say “vaguely” because my memories of books like The City Under the Back Steps are vague indeed.) But I suspect if I was about 8 years old, I’d find Epic‘s adventures in a tiny magical world pretty fascinating. Unfortunately, I’m about 50 years too late to get the good out of it.
The story concerns a teenage girl, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), who goes to live with her dotty scientist father named Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) —a pretty strange monicker for anyone not in a loincloth and living in the jungle— who has spent his life in search of proof that a world of tiny creatures live in the woods near his house. She thinks he’s nuts, of course, until she finds herself shrunken to their size and charged to help with the task of saving a magical flower bud — thereby saving the whole forest from destruction by the evil Boggans. This paves the way for some adventures, some comedy hijinks, some awkward teen romance and a good 20 minutes more screen time than I was happy with. The film is clearly banking on three things: a high-profile voice cast, striking visuals toward the beginning and end, and the fact that the only other children’s movie out there, The Croods, is pretty much played out. I remain unconvinced that big name actors really sell these movies, but if they do, a lineup of Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Beyoncé, Josh Hutcherson, Chris O’Dowd and Steven Tyler is on the impressive side.
Technically, the CGI animation is good and the design is sometimes breathtaking. The voice performances range from solid to very good (no surprise that the standout is Christoph Waltz as the villain of the film). The problem is — and this won’t bother kids so much — that you’ve seen all of the content before in one guise or another. In fact, you’ve seen it before a lot. There are a few surprises — notably the death of the secondary bad guy on a car windshield — but it’s mostly by-the-numbers material. It’s nicely done but, apart from the visuals, it’s also pretty undistinguished. Rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher