MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Amanda Seyfried as M.K.
Josh Hutcherson as NOD
Colin Farrell as RONIN
Christoph Waltz as MANDRAKE
Beyoncé Knowles as QUEEN TARA
Aziz Ansari as MUB
Chris O’Dowd as GRUB
Pitbull as BUFO
Jason Sudeikis as PROFESSOR BOMBA
Steven Tyler as NIM GALUU
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Chris Wedge
BY KEVIN CARR
This past summer, “Epic” was one of those movies that slipped through my fingers. For a variety of reasons, I missed the press screening, and I didn’t get a chance to see it early enough to review it properly. However, when I did get a chance to see it, I really enjoyed the film, even though it’s really nothing terrible new in children’s fiction or animation in general.
Of course, it took my wife to point out to me the similarity in set-up this movie has to the “Twilight” series. Both feature a surly teenage girl who has to go live with her somewhat batty and secluded father. In “Epic,” the mother has passed away (a staple plot device for children’s stories) whereas the mother is just a bit of a kook in “Twilight.” Eventually, the girl’s eyes are opened to a fantasy world of magic and excitement.
However, don’t let the weight and baggage of this “Twilight” set-up to keep you from seeing the movie. After this quick blurbing of the plot, the similarities end, and “Epic” turns out to be far more epic than you would find in any teen vampire flick.
In this story, Amanda Seyfried plays the voice of M.K., the girl who is forced to live with her wacky biologist father in the middle of the woods. One day while wandering the property, M.K. finds herself swept into the world of the Leaf Men. These are tiny nature warriors who are in a constant battle with the forces of rot and decay in the forest.
Ronin (Colin Farrell) leads the Leaf Men, and he tries to protect Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles). Along the way, he is helped by the maverick Nod (Josh Hutcherson), who takes a shine to M.K. when she is chosen as the protector for the queen’s successor.
There’s a lot of familiar elements in “Epic” – from recent movies like “Avatar” and “The Secret World of Arrietty” to earlier films like “Fern Gully” and “The Borrowers.” There’s a strong ecological message to the film, though it’s more about respect for the natural world than to preach about pollution and deforestation. This is a relief considering Hollywood’s penchant for preaching this way in any film related to the natural world.
Of course, this makes sense considering the villains of the movie are the Boggans (which reminds me of “The Spiderwick Chronicles,” another similar-themed film), and the Boggans are all about rot and decay even though they are natural creatures in the forest. But this isn’t a hard-core biology lesson. It’s a kids’ movie, and there needs to be a villain.
Christoph Waltz plays the villain perfectly and deliciously, reminiscent of Kevin Spacey’s turn as an evil grasshopper in “A Bug’s Life” from 15 years ago. He may have an Oscar under his belt, but the guy has trouble finding roles now and then. Still, he seems to be having plenty of fun with “Epic.” Likewise, Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd have a lot of fun as the comic relief mollusks in the movie, which you’ve seen heavily featured in the trailers.
The glue that holds “Epic” together is the visuals. The story is pretty routine, but it’s the vivid colors and sense of excitement that comes with the crisp animation that makes it really work. “Epic” is a good reminder that it’s okay to rehash a familiar story in a Hollywood movie as long as it can be visually interesting and fun.
The Blu-ray comes packaged with a DVD that includes DigitalCopy HD. There’s not a ton of special features but enough to make it interesting for a family watch. These features include “Birds, Bugs and Slugs: Forest Explorer” which looks at the real-life counterparts to the creatures in the film, “Rot Rocks” which examines the necessary process of rot and decay in nature, “ The Epic Life at 2 Inches” which contemplates what a human being that small would be capable of and “Mysteries of Moonhaven Revealed” which serves as a multi-part behind-the-scenes documentary of the film. Finally, the disc also contains an enhanced coloring book app feature for the kids.