Starring the voices of: Colin Farrell, Beyoncé, Josh Hutcherson, Aziz Ansari, Amanda Seyfried, Chris O’Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, Steven Tyler and Christoph Waltz.
Rated: PG. Animated. Running Time: 1 hour 42 minutes.
It’s been a while since a kids movie has graced the big screen, so we decided to bring our boy (age 9) with us for a peek at Epic. And although it sported the usual makings of children’s fare, I genuinely enjoyed it. We see so many of these movies that it’s hard not to dwell on the formulaic plot lines and clever double entendre. But occasionally you can lose yourself in one and overlook the commonality to discover something fresh about it. Epic has a very creative storyline with a basic, but important, lesson for viewers. It also has some decent laughs that appeal to both young and old. I have to give a film credit if it induces Ethan to poke either Ross or myself with the ‘Wow, that was funny…did you guys think that was funny?’ routine. And if he recites any of the lines on the car ride home, that’s usually a sure fire sign that the jokes were pretty good. Both of these applied in this case. The plot centers around a hidden World that exists in the forest. The life of the forest is comprised of flowers, trees, leaves, insects and tiny people, including a powerful Queen. Queen Tara (voiced by Beyoncé) is graceful and has a special power that brings life wherever she desires. She makes the flowers bloom, revitalizes dead plants and unites her people to the cause of keeping the forest vibrant, but most importantly alive. Her nemesis is a scary looking miniature named Mandrake (voiced by Waltz), donning a rat carcass cloak and wooden staff. His only passion is killing the forest and spreading the gray, haggard designs of his World throughout the lush greenery the Queen has sustained. His plan is to kill Queen Tara and destroy all that she and her people represent. It is a classic battle of good vs. evil, but fate comes into play as a regular human teenage girl finds herself right in the middle.
I’ve talked about him in our review of Django Unchained, so some of you probably know that I LOVE Christoph Waltz. He’s won two Oscars for good reason, and in Epic, just with his voice he’s the star of the show. One of the great bad guys of all time in Inglorious Basterds, his Mandrake is one evil, heartless dude. And really, doesn’t the bad guy oftentimes make the movie? Anyway, M.K. (Seyfried) is a teenage girl visiting her father Bomba (Sudeikis) who we discover has lost everything – job, wife, kid etc. because of his obsession with finding proof of the little people in the forest. M.K. indeed ends up in the middle of the battle, and when the Queen gets mortally wounded, M.K. is magically shrunken and entrusted with an item that is paramount to the forests’ survival. She soon meets Nod (Hutcherson , who is suddenly in everything), an irresponsible youth/warrior/love interest; and Ronin (Farrell) the leader of the Queen’s Guard who is steadfast, true, “secretly” in love with the Queen, disappointed in Nod AND looks exactly like our neighbor’s son Connor. M.K. also has help from the snail Grub (O’Dowd) and the slug Mub (Ansari) who has most of the movies’ funniest lines. Our group of heroes must fend off the relentless Mandrake, who needs to make everything dead and grey, just because. The action is fast paced, entertaining, funny and sometimes a little scary. Just what the creators wanted.
Waltz just commands the screen in anything he’s in. His voice is mesmerizing, his gestures are captivating and his talent is indisputable. His presence is still felt through the animated character he is portraying. That’s just brilliant casting to have his cold, distinct voice in contrast to Beyoncé’s warm, mellifluous tone. Ronin really does have an uncanny resemblance to our neighbor’s little boy – Ross nailed that. Because we see so many of these animated movies it’s easy to take the animation for granted, but I am utterly impressed by what they can do these days. Being a child of the ’90’s Disney era, I didn’t know that one day animation would blow that stuff out of the water. These days, the animated people really resemble people! Not to mention the settings. We were at home skimming through the channels and we stopped on Brave (which we have reviewed – see Archives – July 2012) for a brief second. Even at home the visuals were spectacular and the animation was jaw dropping. I can’t wait to see what they do next!
I agree the animation of today is spectacular (even with the 3D money grabs). It’s so consistently good, it’s easy to take it for granted. What is equally impressive is the ability of these studios: Disney, Pixar, Blue Sky et al, to keep churning out such enjoyable and educational stories. The good far outweighs the bad or mediocre. So when you come across a movie like Escape From Planet Earth for example, which wasn’t THAT bad, but is obviously inferior; it seems worse than it is. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they are reinventing the wheel with these movies, but they do make them as enticing to grown-ups as to the kids. They fill them with life lessons without ramming them down your throat, and they make you want to see them again, which is no easy task. Epic is another in a long line of worthy efforts. Absolutely recommended for you, and sure take the kids along if you want. One final note; Maria and I love to play the game of “name the voice behind the character”, and we’re usually pretty good at it. Ethan has taken to playing with us recently and he nailed Pitbull as Bufo, a toad-like creature. I was only average with Colin Farrell and Chris O’Dowd, easy ones. Maria hit all the rest, including an interesting turn by Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler as Nim Galuu, a caterpillar of sorts. This is a fun game, you should try it. Occasionally, we get stumped and have to wait around to see the credits, for the inevitable “Oh that was so and so!” moment. Yet another reason to sing the praises of the superior genre of animated features!
Maria’s rating: 4 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Ross’ rating: 3.75 Gummies.