'Epic': An animated good-vs.-evil action-fantasy

M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) encounters Mub the slug (Aziz Ansari) in "Epic." Blue Sky Studios
M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) encounters Mub the slug (Aziz Ansari) in "Epic." Blue Sky Studios
Posted: May 24, 2013

Next time you go for a walk in the country, or in the park, or in your garden if you have one, watch out for the teensy-weensie folk dressed like Robin Hood, zipping through the blades of grass, whooshing this way and that on the backs of hummingbirds.

Watch for the talking micro-snails and slugs, too, the jolly caterpillars and sinister Boggans with their pointy teeth and animal cowls, and the beautiful faerie princess-type - you definitely don't want to step on her.

Or, you could just go see Epic, a hyperactive CG cartoon, very loosely adapted from children's book author and artist William Joyce's The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Directed by Chris Wedge, of Ice Age fame, and available for viewing in 3-D, if you care for such stuff, Epic is a less-than-seamless mix of action and fantasy in which a feisty teenage human, M.K. (the voice of Amanda Seyfried), paying a visit to her eccentric and heretofore estranged dad (Jason Sudeikis), stumbles into a secret world in the backyard.

She stumbles into this secret world, and then becomes a part of it, as M.K. (short for Mary Katherine), as if by magic, gets turned diminutive herself. Suddenly, she's there among the flora and fauna, taking up arms against the nefarious Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his legion of Boggan bad guys, intent on turning the entire ecosystem into one bleak, black wasteland.

Yes, Epic is one of those good vs. evil, coming-of-age yarns.

And that's the problem. It's one of those - generic entertainment with a brave heroine, cutesy-poo supporting characters, parental figures who are either absent or absent-minded, etcetera, etcetera. Throw in a cross-demographic cast of voice actors - Beyoncé and Pitbull, Colin Farrell and Steven Tyler, Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd, and The Hunger Games' Josh Hutcherson - and an earnest environmental message - and you've got an animated feature that feels decidedly un-organic.

Hutcherson's Nod is a young leafman who would rather fly solo than follow the rules. And some of the flying sequences - dogfights above and below the tree canopy - play like Top Gun, only the pilots are armed with bows and arrows and sport elf warrior garb. It's like Maverick and Goose and Iceman in green tights, only, I guess, it's really not like that at all.

Where'd I put those Real-D glasses, anyway?


Epic **1/2 (Out of four stars)

Directed by Chris Wedge. With the voices of Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Jason Sudeikis, and Beyoncé Knowles. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox.

Running time: 1 hour, 42 mins.

Parent's guide: PG (cartoon violence, action, adult themes)

Playing at: area theaters


Contact Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or srea@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Steven_Rea. Read his blog, On Movies Online, at www.inquirer.com/onmovies.

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