Another month, another big, flashy celebrity-filled animated feature hoping to snag a slice of the oh-so-predictable children’s movie box office pie. The most recent colorfully drawn entry is "Epic," which comes from director Chris Wedge, the brains behind the original "Ice Age." And, much like its title, "Epic" is oddly bold and bland at the same time.
Amanda Seyfried lends her voice to Mary Katherine (nicknamed M.K. because acronyms are cool with the kids), a down-to-earth teen coming to live with her estranged, nature nerd dad (Jason Sudeikis) in his run-down house in the middle of nowhere. He’s too busy collecting evidence about a small race of people living and battling in the overgrown woods surrounding the house to notice M.K., but before she can run back to the city, she’s mystically shrunken down to ant size and brought to the magical forest world her father has been looking for.
Unfortunately, she’s arrived during tumultuous times. The queen of the forest (voiced by who else but Beyonce Knowles) has passed away just as she was about to choose a special leaf pod to be the heir to the throne. Now M.K. and the Leafmen, guardians of the forest led by Ronin (Colin Farrell) and his troublemaking ward Nod (Josh Hutcherson of "The Hunger Games"), must protect the pod and ensure it stays out of the hands of Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his grey, rot-obsessed army of Boggans.
"Epic" is the second animated William Joyce children’s book adaptation in less than year to come out ("Rise of the Guardians" was the other last Thanksgiving), and much like its predecessor, what the film lacks in a simple, absorbing story, it mostly makes up for with gorgeous animation. The lush, imaginative forest world looks vibrant and spectacular – even in 3-D – and the big, lively action sequences that make up a large portion of the story are visually captivating.
On the pleasantly surprising side of things is the voice cast. At first glance, the list looks half inspired and half distractingly overloaded with big name non-actors (Beyonce, Pitbull, Steven Tyler) that bode well for the poster and the ads, but not so much the movie itself. Luckily, it’s more the former than the latter. Seyfried brings an enthusiastic charm to her lead role, and Waltz is a brilliant choice as the sinister Boggan king. Flourishing comedy stars Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari serve as above-average scene stealers, playing a noble-hearted snail and a sassy, wannabe-stud slug with eyes for our heroine. Even Beyonce and Pitbull fit decently into the story.
The only real misfires are Tyler, who’s a bit distracting and a brief, forced musical number doesn’t help his cause, and Hutcherson, who brings nothing of particular interest to his rebellious hero-in-training.
With all of those components in its favor, plus a fairly amusing script, you’d think "Epic" would be a clear winner, but something’s missing. It feels harsh to say that the movie is generic, but besides a clever bit about how big human beings sound and appear to the forest dwellers, there is a definite lack of surprise or snap to the proceedings.
After a while, the bright visuals can’t hide the fact that the story feels pretty routine. Throw a battle here, grow a sweetly innocent romantic bond over there, toss the crucial pod back and forth between our tiny rivals, and end it with a huge battle and a happy send-off. Unlike "The Croods" from earlier this year, however, it doesn’t have the heart that could make it rise above the formula.
The film is diverting enough while you're watching it, but it fades fast. If you name your movie "Epic," it better leave a bigger impact than this.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Matt Mueller
Published Dec. 12, 2013
When the clock read Noon today, it was time for hopefully the start of a big breakthrough for Milwaukee rapper Jae Ace. It was at that time when Ace's fittingly titled new album "NOON" was released on his website for free download.
Published Dec. 11, 2013
OnMilwaukee caught up with Doomtree's Aaron Mader, more commonly known as Lazerbeak, to talk about the documentary "Team the Best Team," the struggles of being on the road and how Wisconsin plays a part in the collective's creative process.
Published Dec. 10, 2013
Miller Lite announced the launch of the new Original Lite Can, a replica of the 1975 can that helped start the light beer craze (for better or for worse).
Published Dec. 10, 2013
When most of us are flipping through local radio stations, we're merely hoping to find a good station with a good run of catchy songs to help make the ride through traffic a bit more tolerable. When Sean Behling was flipping through stations back in 2005 when he moved to Milwaukee, he happened to find the inspiration for a whole album. The result was "Unwound," the recently released 43-track album of IDM and big band-infused instrumental hip-hop from Flight Mechanics, the duo of Behling (Seakn) and Paul Duquesnoy (Boost).
Published Dec. 6, 2013
For about its first hour, I was fairly on board the new Rust Belt drama "Out of the Furnace." But then I realized where the movie was going. The path - one of cliché and mildly ridiculous revenge thriller pulp - became clear and obvious, and I couldn't have wanted it to stop more. But it didn't. Now, I'm left with a movie that's by no means bad but disappointing, a passable waste of exceptional potential.
Published Dec. 4, 2013
For the second year in a row, the crew down at The Second City in Chicago is coming up to Milwaukee for the holidays to present a holiday comedy special, this time called "The Second City's Nut-Cracking Holiday Revue." OnMilwaukee caught up with one of the stars, Megan Hovde, to ask about the holiday revue, being a part of The Second City and why "The Golden Girls" is one of her comedy icons.
Published Dec. 3, 2013
Stars Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are taking their hit show, "Mythbusters," on the road, and tomorrow night, their "Behind the Myths" tour arrives at the Milwaukee Theater. OnMilwaukee got a chance to talk to Hyneman and ask him about the show's most memorable myths.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
The sun carries almost no heat or warmth. A sharp face-tingling chill greets you as turn every corner on the street. There's not even any wonderful white snow on the ground to make the weather seem any more pleasant. Nope, it's just cold. It's hard to think of a better, more fitting time for Sheryl Crow, the singer-songwriter behind warm, summery hits like "Soak Up the Sun" and "All I Wanna Do," to come to town.
Published Nov. 29, 2013
For those with that built-in affection for the film and the sweet, innocent days of times long gone past, "White Christmas" might be perfect. For me, though, the show - which opened Tuesday night at the Marcus Center - was a whole lot of holly-drenched hokum, as fresh as a Christmas Day snow in the dregs of March.
Published Nov. 28, 2013
"Philomena" may be modest, but that modesty is surprisingly striking and rewarding. After my original screening, I found myself having a hard time putting the movie down in my head. I had to see it a second time, and that second look confirmed my lingering suspicions: It's a damn fine movie.