Epic Movie Review
What’s one of the coolest things about being a parent? Getting to share something you love with your children, and getting to experience it through their eyes. I’ve been blessed to share my love of the cinema with my children. Up until today, though, that was relegated to perusing the few remaining video stores, watching movies on Netflix, or occasionally getting to see something I get to review. But today we got to take our son to the theater for the first time to see EPIC, the new film from Blue Sky Studios (the Fox animation subsidiary behind the ICE AGE movies and, most recently, RIO in 2011). We’ve both been excited for EPIC ever since the first trailer posted to the Blu-ray release of ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT, and couldn’t have been more thrilled at the idea of getting to see this film as his first foray into the world of the multiplex.
EPIC is the story of MK (or Mary Katherine, played by Amanda Seyfried, to her father), a late-teen girl who has just come to stay with her Father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) after the tragic passing of her mother. MK’s estranged father has lost almost everything he has loved in the world (including his family) due to his obsession with a theoretical, advanced civilization of tiny beings who live in the nearby forest. MK comes to stay with him hoping to fulfill her mother’s last wish, to reconcile their relationship. But Bomba is too far down the path of obsession and is unable to stop his hunt for these tiny beings. He believes proving himself is the only way to make up for everything he has sacrificed, his vindication.
MK gives up on their relationship but before she is able to leave she chases Bomba’s dog Ozzie into the forest where she finds Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) falling from the sky. The Queen had just selected a pod, a magical transference exercise where she chooses her heir to carry on and protect the life of the forest. But before she could finish the process they were attacked by Boggans, creatures who thrive on rotting the living and destroying nature. The Queen, teetering with death, uses her powers to shrink MK and tasks her with saving the pod, the only being who can continue the life of the forest. MK soon finds herself in the very heart of the civilization her father has obsessed over for so many years, that she, herself, did not believe in. So MK joins the Leafmen to try to save the forest, and possibly the world, from an overzealous destroyer named Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), out to rot the forest once and for all.
The story is fairly basic following many Hollywood tropes. There’s the dysfunctional father/daughter relationship, the hero/loner who is called into action after leaving behind his responsibilities, the general romantic comedy vibe that oversees most relationships in films like this, and finally stereotyped characters who are never flushed out beyond the basics. This isn’t to say that EPIC isn’t interesting filmmaking. In fact, if you go with children I think you’ll have a great time. The problem is the movie just isn’t quite as good as it could have been.
To start, shave 20 minutes. I don’t know any family film completely worthy of two seconds over 90 minutes. There are some great moments but there are also too many slow pans through the forest. There is some beautiful imagery to be sure, just not enough to keep <10 year olds interested. Second, Blue Sky Studios is infamous for overcasting (in my book). There are literally big names in almost every single speaking role, and it just isn’t necessary. It’s actually a bit distracting – instead of enjoying all of the characters and the story I found myself wondering “now who is that voice… wait, wait… I know it…” Even with these casual gripes, though, EPIC emerges with a whole lot more to like than not. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good, if simple, animated tale of good versus evil.