Release Date: May 24, 2013
'Epic' is strictly for kids; adults need not apply
Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 16 Tyler Galleria
Time: 4:15 am May 26, 2013
Projector Type: Digital 3D
Film Rating: PG
Film Runtime: 1 hr 44 min
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Loves: The voice cast (not that it really matters though)
Likes: The forest setting
Neutral: That the adults are not catered to more
Hates: How familiar everything felt
Fact: You will forget about this film shortly after seeing it
Is it really that bad to be completely derivative in almost every facet possible? That is the one question that kept popping up as "Epic", the new Dreamworks animated feature about a teenage girl named MK (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who is sent off to live with her estranged father Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) and soon finds herself shrunk down to pint size and thrust into an ongoing battle for the forest between the Leafman, led by the noble Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell), who protect Queen Tara (voiced by Beyonce Knowles), from the evil Boggans led by Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz) who are hellbent on destroying the forest, tree by tree.
That one question persisted throughout the mercifully brief feature and was compounded by a near endless barrage of familiar themes, scenarios and characters that have been liberally lifted from countless other works, such as "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest", "The Never Ending Story" and "The Borrowers". Taking from or being inspired by other stories isn't necessarily a horrible thing and in the case of "Epic", everything it has repurposed for its own story is sadly its best parts, with anything that could be considered original to be rather bland and uninteresting.
Being labeled as dull or uninspired can sometimes be a greater insult than calling something just outright bad. But here we find ourselves with a film that feels largely uninspired despite the many imaginative inspirations it takes from. The characters lack any real definition or identity that separates them from the herd of extremely familiar characters we find in all our CG animated films featuring a battle between good and evil. You have your rebellious youth with the character Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson) who doesn't want to become a Leafman simply because he is young and...er, well...rebellious.
That is until he comes across MK, the skeptical daughter of a mad scientist type who finds her beliefs and confidence in her father tested by being thrown into this other world that will eventually make her a true believer in her father and herself. The relationship between the two characters is quite possibly one of the weakest attempts in a very long time to throw two characters together simply for the sake of having a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic between them. Do we really need another movie where our lead female character MUST hook up with some idiot stud? Why can't she simply be independent and not have to rely on some guy with a sturdy frame and a well groomed mane to get her out of a sticky situation?
The villain gets even less love when it comes down to motivation and character arc, Mandrake is your stereotypical bad guy who despite being voiced by the impeccable Christoph Waltz, comes off as one dimensional and not even all that threatening of a precense. Oh wait, he does have one motivation, which is to avenge the death of his son, whom we meet, but don't realize it is his son, until he dies, at which point we let out an audible sigh of discontent because we simply just don't care. Then you have a slew of other stereo typical character types, the comedy duo of Mub (voiced by Aziz Ansari) and Grub (voiced by Chris O'Dowd) as a slug and snail and the wise hipster glow worm Nim Galu (voiced by Steven Tyler).
Besides the associated voice talent behind each character (which one has to wonder who really cares who voices any of these characters), they and the world they inhabit are just sort of there, doing what they do because that is what their role is in the greater scheme of things. None jump out as a unique individual, they all just blend together creating this overtly blah feeling whenever they open their mouths. Even the "great evil" that has befallen their forest feels somewhat tame. Watching leaves whither and die, or the ground turn to mud doesn't exactly evoke the proper emotionally reaction to create the tension that is sorely lacking from this entire production.
However, this is a kids film afterall, which must be taken into consideration. Dreamworks, whom has been know to produce a decent family film from time to time, isn't exactly known to develop stories and/or characters that both adults and children can to relate to, it is often one or the other and sadly "Epic" is in the other category where the adults get the cold shoulder. Unlike their more family oriented "The Croods" from earlier this year, "Epic" never really aspires to be anything more than a passing interest for kids and a total bore for adults which will likely be forgotten the minute they leave that theater.
Although the action can be fun and has its moments, the animation is bright and colorful, the characters may lack dimension but are filled with personality and it never feels as though it is dragging its feet, the film in general never feels as though it has anything to offer other than those rather plain surface details. It is a little disheartening that there isn't much for children to take away from the experience either (although, to the filmmakers credit, they never turn the film into an environmentalist message), but there are also far worse things to take your kids to see.
Taken for what it is, "Epic" is a passable piece of animated fluff that most will enjoy as they watch it (or at the very least convince themselves they like it), but will forget it almost the instant it ends. It's the cinematic equivalent of eating a piece of candy that loses its flavor after the first couple minutes and is tossed aside for the next piece. As for whether or not it's derivative nature negatively effected the finished product? It's tough to really tell, as only those who are familiar with the other films will make those connections and anyone unfamiliar with those properties won't have a reaction one way or the other.
The unfortunate truth of the matter though is that "Epic" never matches the quality of any of its peers. The entire production from beginning to end just feels as though no ones heart was really into it. Almost as if this was some sort of side project to pass the time while waiting for the script for "Kung-Fu Panda 3" to come in or something. Due to the distinct lack of quality family films at the moment, "Epic" may be your only choice for the kids in theaters, but you might be better served just staying home and finding something on Netflix for the weekend.