'Epic' is a big name for a tiny, but fun, adventure
05:00 AM, May 23, 2013
Fans of Thumbelina,The Borrowers and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids will no doubt find Epic to be a charming adventure into small spaces.
The story has an ultra-familiar ring: A teenage girl gets miniaturized and discovers an elaborate diminutive universe. And while the title is a misnomer, the intricate world of Epic (** ½ out of four; rated PG; opens Friday nationwide) is certainly a sight to behold.
Tiny woodland humans ride on saddled hummingbirds and work to keep things alive and thrumming. On the opposing side are dastardly creatures that cover themselves in rat skins, flit around on bats and do their best to spread death and decay.
This ecological yin-yang is vividly rendered.
Spirited 17-year-old M.K.(voiced by Amanda Seyfried) has come to stay with her distracted biologist father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), in the wake of her mom’s death. The epitome of the absent-minded professor cliché, Bomba has been discredited by the scientific community for his insistence that a minuscule civilization exists in the forest near his ramshackle home.
The feisty M.K. is dismissive of her estranged father’s work and hurt that he seems insensitive to her feelings. She leaves a note and heads out to leave, when she’s transformed into a nearly microscopic version of herself.
The teeny creatures she encounters are called Leafmen, and their credo is “Many leaves, one tree.” The first wee being M.K. encounters is the beloved Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), who entrusts a pod intended as her heir in the teenager’s care. From here, M.K.’s adventure blooms.
M.K. is quick to meet Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a rakish hunk. They take a romantic ride atop a deer’s antlers and work together to safeguard the pod that holds the promise for the Leafmen’s future.
Characters are based on William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. Joyce also wrote the screenplay and served as production designer for this computer-generated, 3-D film.
The bad guys are a nasty group called Boggans, led by the snarling Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). He and his minions are intent on destroying all greenery and signs of life and transmuting the world into a grayish-brown wasteland.
M.K. joins forces with Nod and a heroic warrior named Ronin (Colin Farrell). She also shares some laughs with comic foils, including a leering slug named Mub (Aziz Ansari) and a stoic snail named Grub (Chris O’Dowd).
The film’s clever use of emerald-colored hummingbirds as transportation is a highlight.
Voices match up nicely with characters’ personalities, particularly Beyoncé’s dulcet tones for the queen, and Farrell’s lilting Irish brogue for the fearless Ronin. Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler lends a humorous vocal quality to a caterpillar named Nim Galuu, a laid-back party animal seemingly styled after Jeff Bridges’ character in The Big Lebowski.
After the forest is saved, a loving rapprochement between father and daughter is inevitable.
The lilliputian Eden is filled with dazzling colors, swooping action and gorgeous foliage. The eco-friendly message is sound, and the adventure exciting, though occasionally frenetic, for children. Jokes are family-friendly, if not hilarious, sans potty humor.
Epic’s visuals are enthralling enough for little and big folks to offset a predictable, albeit sweet, story.