- Movie Rating -

Epic (2013)

| May 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

The late great critic Roger Ebert coined a term that accurately describes a movie like “Epic.”  He would call it a “four-glasses-movie,” which he described as any movie whose plot can be summed up on four souvenir glasses from McDonald’s.  “The glasses are of great value,” he said, “because they hold more water than the screenplay.”

That pretty much sums it up.  “Epic” is an animated adventure with good technical merits; a movie in which all the imagination has gone into the impressive production design, but the story and the characters are completely canned.  There’s hardly a moment or a character here that isn’t right off the assembly-line.  It involves a teenage girl named Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who is the daughter of a brilliant scientist and a dead mother.  The scientist is Dr. Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudekies), one of those Movie Scientists who runs around making calculations while wearing a ridiculous helmet that obscures his vision.  He’s gone around the bend, devoting all his time to proving the existence of tiny little people who live in the forest.  The movie doesn’t allow us any mystery into his discovery because while he’s gathering information, we are introduced to the tiny people and their particular problems in the cold light of day.

The particular problems of the tiny people – known as Leafmen – aren’t surprising.  They involve tribal rites, heirs to the throne, tribal warfare and of course, the problem of Mary Katherine being magically transported into their world.  Their world has some ingenuity.  They have built an entire civilization out of the greenery of the forest, riding around on humming birds and making armor out of leaves.  The hero is naïve young Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson from “The Hunger Games”) who, not surprisingly, has a slim, chaste romance with Mary Katherine.  The level-head is provided by the leader of the Leafmen named Ronin (Colin Farrell), who is strict and orderly but has no real personality beyond that.  Then there’s Queen Tara (voiced by Beyonce), who is onscreen only long enough to spout some ancient wisdom.  These Leafmen are at war with the grey goblin people called The Boggans led by the evil Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz) who is mean because, well, because the movie needs a bad guy – as if giant insects, mice, and 50 foot humans aren’t hardship enough.

The environment that The Leafmen and The Boggans occupy is pretty remarkable, but the characters have no soul.  Their speech is all standard, dull, boilerplate, move-the-plot-forward kind of stuff.  The characters are ill-defined and ill-designed – they all look slick and plastic like Barbie Dolls.  Given the advancement in computer animation, it is surprising to find characters that look like action figures.

Yet, all is not lost.  There are some spaces of the movie that show the promise of what might have been.  All the characters are forgettable except for the comedy relief, two slick fast-talking snails named Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively) who have a kind of Used Car salesman vibe.  Those two troublemakers are brimming with life and energy and fun dialogue that everyone else in the film is lacking.  Also around is a very interesting dog named Ozzie, the pet of Dr. Bomba.  Ozzie, like the snails, is also brimming with life and energy.  He’s a rather curious little fellow, a pug who is as happy as a lark despite missing a leg and an eye.  There’s no purpose for this ailment and that lends a kind of random, unprepared, real-life quality to the character, a defining texture that the rest of the movie seems to lack.

“Epic” comes from the studio of Blue Sky animation which, after mediocre efforts like “Rio”, “Horton Hears a Who”, and the “Ice Age” sequels seems to excel at films that land at a B- average.  It gets a pass where its rival Pixar consistently make the Dean’s List.

Now for the million dollar question: Will kids enjoy it?  Probably, yes.  Although it won’t leave them with anything to appreciate once it’s over.  The kids will find it briefly interesting, while parents will be checking their watches.  “Epic” is two hours of eye candy that will probably make for an entertaining appetizer until “Monster’s University” arrives in June.  Ask your kids about it in six months and you can be guaranteed that they won’t even remember having seen it, except maybe for Ozzie the dog.  They’ll remember him.  So cute.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Comedy, Drama, Kids