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Epic (3D) Movie Review - -

Epic (3D)
Reviewed by Maren Smith on June 7th, 2013
presents a film directed by Chris Wedge
Screenplay by James V. Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember
(voices of) Amanda Seyfried, Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell, Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari
Running Time: 102 minutes
Rating: PG
Released: June 27th, 2013



The latest animated film from Chris Wedge, the director of Ice Age and Robots, transports us and the main character Mary Katherine “MK” into the world of the leaf men: an advanced society of fairy-type creatures who protect the forest from their nemesis the evil Boggans who rot the forest. A star studded cast that includes Beyoncé Knowles as the voice of Queen Tara, the “life of the forest”, Colin Farrell as Ronin, the head of the Leaf Men military, and Josh Hutcherson as Nod, a young leaf man who abandons his military duties.

MK, voiced by Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls), has just moved in with her estranged father Bomba, Jason Sudeikis, and is unimpressed with his all-consuming and seemingly insane obsession with finding the mythical tiny creatures. Their daughter/father relationship is in the throes of MK’s adolescence: she’s embarrassed and disappointed in a father whose occupation consumes his attention as she struggles with loneliness after the loss of her mother. She stumbles across Queen Tara in the middle of a stormy battle with the Boggans, and is shrunk and drawn into the world of the leaf men.

Queen Tara charges MK with protecting her successor, the life of the forest, embedded in a leaf pod that has to bloom in the moonlight that very night. The guards of the leaf pods, Grub the snail, Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd, The Sapphires), and Mub the slug, Aziz Ansari (Parks and Recreation) are fantastic as a silly slimy duo whose expertise is keeping the pod moist. Grub dreams of joining the leaf man army and Mub dreams of winning MK’s heart, and while neither dream is likely to come true they are a welcome light side to an otherwise serious action film.

The animation is flashy and the 3D is fun, and the forest is just dripping in a magical glow, but there was something a little disappointing about the complexities of the natural world being reduced to a military struggle between good and evil. In contrast to a similar forest-saving animated film, FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Epic is reductionist and morally simplistic. The lessons the characters learn are to do with their willingness to join the army, their reliance on monarchy for survival and that individuality is dangerous and lonely. I wouldn't directly call it brainwashing, but it’s a disservice to the imaginative faculties of their audience. One has to wonder whether the industrialization of the creative process, as in modern VFX house, has leaked into the content of the film itself.

The characters suffer from this binary too, pure good and pure evil are dull, even if pure evil is voiced by the incredible Christoph Waltz (Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained). Epic is less of a children’s film and more of a fantasy film that happens to be animated. The quest leads to several huge battles, just as 'epic' as the title would imply, but who needs epic, deadly battles in a kid's film?

There are also very few female characters. There's MK who is quite loveable, with a predictable and harmless character arc, and Queen Tara who is all perfection and seduction, in almost exactly the way a real life monarch isn't. It's another one of those Smurf-like gender situations where being a woman is almost characterization enough, and women with comedic roles are nowhere to be seen.

That being said, I had a lot of fun, and the side characters were fantastic. The strengths of the film were undoubtedly Mub, the slug and Grub, a snail. Whenever the elaborate warfare fanfare took a backseat, the expressive nature of animation and the skills of the actors shone through as a more casual entertainment delightfully took place. I could have watched a whole film of Ansari and O'Dowd being silly gastropods. Their characters were fantastic, hilarious and charming; laughter abounds.
On the whole, the film is solid. Though quite a long film, it's entertaining the whole way through, and while it's not ideal for very small children, it's got a lot going on and is visually exciting. The simplistic morals and battle scenes were as trite as they were ‘epic’, it's sadly no FernGully, but it's a bit of fun for your little soldiers and little princesses.


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