© 2013 Ray Wong

The good thing about Epic is that the animation is quite outstanding -- there are scenes that look so photorealistic that it's definitely a feast to the eyes. The bad thing is everything else. The movie would have scored much lower if not for the technical excellence.

Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), a teenager from the city, plans to stay with her absentee scientist father (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother died. But they have nothing in common, and he is so obsessed with his research of finding the "little people in the forest" that he neglects everything including his own daughter. When MK decides to leave her hopelessly delusional father, she stumbles into the middle of a battle between the little people and the "Boggers" led by Bufo (Pitbull), which results in the death of Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowes). Magically MK is shrunk to the size of the little people.

Upon her death, Queen Tara bestows a flower pod to MK and tells her to protect it and bring it to Nim Galuu (StevenTyler). Aided by the Queen's loyal soldiers, the Leaf Men headed by heroic Ronin (Colin Farrell), MK sets off on her journey. She is also accompanied by a drifter Leaf Man named Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a snail Mub (Aziz Arsari) and a snail Grub (Chris O'Dowd). Meanwhile, Bufo has a plan to abduct MK and take the pod for his own evil plan to once and for all rule the forest.

The voice talents all do serviceable if uninspiring work. Aziz Arsari(Parks and Recreation) and Chris O'Dowd (Sapphires) are rather funny (kind of the studio's answer to Timon and Pumba). Jason Sudeikis (Bridesmaids) is effectively zany as MK's bumbling father. Amanda Seyfried (Les Miserables) is spirited, if a bit bland, as MK, and Josh Hutcherson (The Hiunger Game) is rather miscast as Nod -- the supposedly dashing teenager Leaf Man that captures MK's attention.

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchaimed) is in his element sounding all evil and mean as Bufo. Colin Farrell (Total Recall) is surprisingly strong and sturdy as Ronin, the hero in this story, and Steven Tyler is suitably goofy as the "wacky uncle" Nim Galuu. And Beyonce Knowes (Dreamgirls) is fine as the regal Queen.

The screenplay by William Joyce and a slew of other writers, based on Joyce's own book, is a hodgepodge of familiar material. The good vs. evil story leaves no room for mistakes or surprise. Everything in the story is so black and white, good vs. evil that it feels very predictable and simplistic. Good vs. Evil stories are fine, if done well (see Harry Potter). Here, everything seems so generic and boring. Oh the good people are all cuddly and cute and fun, and the bad guys are ugly and mean and evil.  There are no depth in any of these characters. And what kind of message does this send to children? That only the good bugs and good animals deserve to be in the forest?  And good is only determined by how they look?

By far the funniest moment is when MK is met with a mouse. For a short few minutes, the story breaks its stereotypical mode and portray a cute, cuddly creature as its true predator self. However, such inspired moments are only short-lived. The rest is more pageantry of the familiar and a parade of the necessary evil (sure, we all know spiders, snakes, bats, etc. must all be evil, right?) Even for a family film, the super simplistic morals and stereotypes are more damaging than helpful in teaching kids about the environment.

Even as a fantasy, there are too many plot holes to ignore. The pacing is often wrong, inducing yawns from adults and friskiness of younger children. There are too many moments that simply do not move. For a beautifully rendered animation, the movie feels unusually stale. Even the battle scenes feel recycled and lame. There is nothing epic about this.

Stars: Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Christoph Waltz, Steven Tyler, Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowes, Aziz Arsari, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Chris O'Dowd
Director: Chris Wedge
Writers: James V. Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle, Mat Ember (based on book by William Joyce)
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
MPAA Rating:  PG for mild action, some scary images and brief crude language
Running Time: 102 minutes


Script - 6
Performance - 7
Direction - 8
Animation - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 8

Total - 6.8 out of 10.0 

No comments: