By Ralph McLean's
AS ECO-FRIENDLY 3D animated adventures for kids go, Epic is hugely impressive.
The latest production from Blue Sky, the studio behind the Ice Age films and other animated favourites like Rio and Horton Hears A Who, it's bright, exciting and packed with eye popping moments of 3D magic.
Based on William Joyce's book The Leaf Man And The Grave Good Bugs it tells the story of a teenager named MK (Amanda Seyfried) who is forced to move in with her eccentric father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudekis) when her mother dies.
Bomba is obsessed with proving that a race of tiny people live in the woods. "Just because you can't see something," he says at one point "doesn't mean it's not there."
The cynical teenager Mary Katherine - "call me MK now" - finds such talk ridiculous of course, until she wanders off into the wilds one day and suddenly finds herself shrunken down into the world of the insect-sized Leafmen and women.
There she encounters a dying Queen Tara (Beyonce) who hands her a plant bud that will save the forest from the forces of decay and darkness represented by the Boggans and their evil leader Mandrake (Christopher Waltz).
Before she knows what's happening MK finds herself off on a mission with the stern head of the Leafmen Ronin (Colin Farrell) to keep the bud safe and thus secure the future of the forest when it blooms.
This journey, taken mostly on the back of hummingbirds who whizz through the lush green habitat, provides much of the magic of Epic as we're whisked into a miniature world of battling warriors, gorgeous scenery and one well-meaning human who simply wants his daughter back.
The results are beautiful to look at. The 3D is dazzling and the storyline, which comes across as a kind of cross between Avatar and The Borrowers with a bit of Alice In Wonderland mixed in, is gripping enough to keep most kids happy.
Directed by Blue Sky co-founder Chris Wedge it may feel like an oldfashioned animation in the age of multi-layered Pixar classics like the Toy Story franchise, but that only adds to its charm really.
As kids films get more and more savvy and smart there's nothing wrong with a little old school storytelling after all. Simple and likeable in equal measure, Epic knows its young audience well and although it never quite becomes the groundbreaking benchmark in animation that it would like to be it's good clean family fun from beginning to end.
With plenty of adventure, a basic but enjoyable story that puts the importance of family at the forefront and a raft of traditional characters voiced by A-list talent like Colin Farrell and Beyonce, it certainly ticks all the boxes that a modern animation effort needs to.
Amongst all the eco-friendly adventure there's plenty of comic relief as well - mostly provided by two gag-cracking molluscs (voiced by Aziz Ansari and IT Crowd star Chris O'Dowd) - and loads of memorable moments and well-staged set pieces to keep even the youngest audience members entertained.
Of all the voice talent on show here Farrell sleepwalks a little through his turn as leader of the Leafmen, although it is nice to hear an Irish accent in a leading animation role, while Beyonce is underused as the doomed Queen of the forest Tara.
Much better is O'Dowd as one half of the wisecracking slugs who protect the all-important flower bud. Along with Christoph Waltz who plays the evil Boggan leader Mandrake with just the right amount of nastiness it's one of the better performances in a film where the effects really rule the roost.
At 100 minutes long it's not the fastest kids animation film of recent times but it's certainly one of the most stylish.
Serious minded but with enough cheap and cheerful gags to keep the young ones laughing it's one Epic that actually lives up to its name.
HALF Avatar, half The Borrowers, this is an ecological adventure that's great to look at and has something to say at the same time.
There are a raft of characters voiced by A-list talent like Colin Farrell and Beyonce
Originally published by Ralph McLean's.
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