News Column

Animated tale of forest creatures a big green bore

May 25, 2013



"Epic" is an unfortunate name for such a simplistic, sleepy little animated movie.

I could have nodded off a couple of times if not for my 8-year- old daughter snickering at the comedy team of Mub and Grub, a slug and a snail in this eco-goofy forest tale, voiced respectively by Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd.

But even her review at the end was telling, from a child who frequently believes the last movie she saw was the best movie she's ever seen: "Eh. It was just OK."

"Epic" sees itself as an action-adventure flick, with a battle between good and evil in the forest, as a teen girl discovers a secret world in the deep woods of green-is-good critters vs. a culture of rot creatures. In short, just pretend it's pretty flowers and cute animals against a race that has the same effect as weed- and-grass killer.

The picture is so exceedingly sweet-natured and cutesy that it might entertain only those 5 and younger. Much older, and boredom sets in; if you take a teen, you risk excessive eye-rolling and sighing.

There's nothing wrong with a movie being gentle, but "Epic" is boring. Even children like to be challenged.

The film is an adaptation of "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," a children's book by author William Joyce, whose wee story has been re-jiggered to include battle scenes. Consider these to be comparable to the antics in "Robots," which was also directed by Chris Wedge, and which Joyce worked on as well.

That picture was at least animated in its comedy as well as its graphics, but "Epic" succeeds only with dazzling forest visuals, like the gorgeous hummingbirds that the little forest people ride as transport. It's an image that sticks with me because it reminds of "Avatar."

But in no other way is "Epic" like "Avatar," though the story certainly lends itself to such concepts. The characters are rarely engaging, a little romance between species is ridiculous, and everyone seems to be endlessly chasing someone else throughout the movie.

What's most disappointing is that animated films so rarely employ a female protagonist, and this one seems to be made by men who have no idea what to do with the brave young lady (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who realizes that if she allows the forest to die, her world might follow suit.

Adults taking their little ones might do best to check out the voice lineup before going, so as to have something of interest to ponder while their brains check out.

Yes, that's the lilting voice of Beyonce Knowles as the Queen, who represents "the life of the forest," and Colin Farrell who speaks for the lead Leaf Man who attempts to educate a protege, Nod (Josh Hutcherson), in this cliched "happily ever after" tale.

Beyond Beyonce, only Ansari and O'Dowd make a mark in voicing the gastropods.

"Epic" only describes the nap I could have taken in the theater, if not for a slug and a snail.

Michael Smith 918-581-8479

Originally published by MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer.

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