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 May 25, 2015
Comedy sequels typically serve as an invitation for disappointment. There are a few exceptions (see: the meta mayhem of last summer's "22 Jump Street"), and thankfully the minorly flawed but majorly funny "Pitch Perfect 2" slides in amongst them.
Published May 25, 2015
The Blake Lively romantic drama "The Age of Adaline" feels like a fairy tale - an incredibly pretty one at that - but told like a lab report.
Published May 14, 2015
The new Sundance-approved Jack Black high school reunion comedy "The D Train" is a darkly oddball mix of laughs and drama simultaneously amusing and cringe-inducingly awkward. So ... pretty much just like my high school days all over again.
Published May 14, 2015
Located in Hales Corners, the W. Ben Hunt Cabin is much more than simply an old rustic locale. It's a lived-in museum to an era long gone, as well as a tribute to an incredible man who predicted the future, turned his hobby into history and did his best to keep some of our nation's earliest traditions from disappearing and merely collecting dust in the past.
Published May 11, 2015
Monday evening, Ald. Tony Zielinski held a community meeting in order to address the recent rumors and speculation concerning the potential sale of At Random - in addition to five other buildings held by the same owner - and to take community input concerning the neighborhood bar.
Published May 10, 2015
"Hot Pursuit" isn't a particularly strong film, and admittedly there's not much of a rousing defense to be made for it (get that pull quote ready for the ad campaign!). But there is one element - and a fairly significant one at that - in the movie's corner: Reese Witherspoon. I will go to bat for her delightfully bright eyed performance here, one that serves as just enough of a sparkplug to almost single-handedly get this tired comedic vehicle where it's going.
Published May 6, 2015
2003's "Big Fish" is a sweet and delightful - and not just because it's one of the few times this side of the millennium you could honestly say, "I enjoyed a Tim Burton movie." Now First Stage will attempt to bring Burton's signature oddball visuals and "Big Fish" author Daniel Wallace's imagination-rich book to live, musical life on stage. In charge is director Jeff Whiting, who chatted with us about bringing tall tales - and taller giants - to life.
Published May 5, 2015
With new headliner and schedule announcements popping up seemingly everyday, the sunny sonic spectacle that is the Big Gig is finally beginning to take shape. But while most of the work takes place in closed-door meetings and over negotiation-heavy phone calls, a part of the Summerfest process has also been taking place on a stage right out in the open, featuring local bands hoping to win in front of a crowd of fans hoping to be won over.
Published May 1, 2015
It's easy to forget that, before it became the franchise model for everything, "The Avengers" didn't sound like a great idea.Yet Marvel and Joss Whedon took a pile of potential excess and smoothly honed it into a burst of pop entertainment. And amazingly, they've managed to make it all work yet again with "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," assembling a ton of moving parts into another thoroughly fun - if not quite as effortlessly harmonious - blockbuster.
Published April 30, 2015
Tonight, people across the country will feast their eyes on the first big blockbuster of the summer season, "The Avengers: Age of Ultron." But that's just the gigantic, explosion-filled appetizer for the upcoming summer banquet of movies to come. But which ones are looking bright, and which ones are looking a little cloudy? Allow me to put on my movie weather man cap and provide you with a seven-day forecast (more like four-month, but whatever).