Action pose!

Theatrical Release Date: 05/24/2013
Director: Chris Wedge
Featuring the voices of: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O’Dowd, Beyoncé Knowles, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler, Blake Anderson, Pitbull
Rated: PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 42 minutes


A bird in the hand! This is … boring.

Animated kids movies these days understand that there are at least two distinct demographics that come to each showing: children and their parents. The goal is to fascinate and wow the wee ones while still making the time enjoyable, or better yet, actually entertaining for the adults who will probably be forced to put the movie on a loop once it hits the home market. Unfortunately, Epic doesn’t seem to understand that notion.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall once the title of the movie was announced. I understand changing it from what William Joyce’s book was called,The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, that’s anything but an eye-catching moniker. But if you’re going to call your story “Epic”, and that word doesn’t actually tie into anything specific (no characters say “Epic”, none of them are named “Epic”, and “Epic” doesn’t appear on-screen anywhere other than the title), you’re simply asking for trouble. The only way not to receive criticism from the adults who were bored by your movie is to make the plot … well … epic.

The script is a Frankensteinian assemblage of other better kids movies like The Neverending Story, Arthur and the Invisibles, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, and the The Spiderwick Chronicles. Some of that comparison is unfair as Joyce’s book was written in 1996, prior to two of those properties also seeing their source material get published. However, if something like John Carter taught the world anything about adapting books into movies, it’s not about when your book hit the store shelves, it’s about when it hit the mainstream cultural zeitgeist.

In Epic, a race of tiny beings keep the natural order of the forest in check. There are those who want to introduce rot and decay to the land (creepy bugs and bats and whatnot) and then there are the good guys (i.e. snails, pretty birds, and tiny human-like characters … because humans are always the good guys; Yes, that’s an example of me being snarky). The balance of power is put in jeopardy when the good Queen of the forest (Beyoncé Knowles) is defeated by the leader of the evil forces, Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). Circumstances bring a human down to size in the form of Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), whose father (Jason Sudeikis) has been searching for proof of the existence of a miniature society in the forest for decades. If you don’t know how this is going to end, I recommend finishing primary school.

On the plus side, the animation itself is fine and kids are going to find most of this fun to watch. Then again, they’ll watch anything as long as there’s a constant stream of flickering images, bright colors, and sound.

On the negative side is everything else. Putting aside the ho-hum, seen it many times over story, the manner in which it unfolds is so bland and unexciting it put a fellow critic to sleep on more than one occasion (and our screening took place at 10:30 in the morning). I might normally be annoyed by such behavior taking place right next to me but it gave me something to be amused by; the film sure wasn’t doing so on its own.

The voice work is a mix of serviceable (Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson), uninspired (Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz), and flat out awful (Beyoncé). Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Down attempt to inject life into the proceedings as a slug and snail, respectively, but for some reason I kept thinking of the two racist Autobots from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen so I can’t really give them points on this effort. If it weren’t for my constant befuddlement at why there was one Irishman (Farrell) and one German (Waltz) amid the entirety of the forest creatures who otherwise were American, I probably would have nodded off myself.

Simply put, parents will likely be forced to endure this movie because their children haven’t developed anything close to a discerning cinematic palette. However, to mitigate the unavoidable chore that this task will end up being, any two-parent system should play a game of rock, paper, scissors (best two out of three, shoot on three). Loser brings the kid(s) to the theater. Or better yet, see if one parent will bring a group of kids and spare even more adults from the proceedings. For their efforts, I recommend a gift card to BevMo! or at least a nice bottle of wine (maybe a Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon .. Get it? Oak? Forest? The plot? It’s also a great bottle of wine … Oh, never mind).

Everyone else not being forced into this theater should stay away and find some other form of entertainment; if not another movie, then maybe something more exciting … like learning to crochet. And no, this is not me being snarky.

2 out of 5