Epic: now that’s a big call in the title department.
And I can’t in all honesty say Epic lives up to its name, but don’t let that unfortunate overreach get in the way of enjoying this delightful animation.
Released in time for the school holidays and in the wake of big studio sequels: Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, Epic might not have the pedigree (or, indeed, the name), but it certainly has a punchy spirit. The simple story follows in the well-trodden footsteps of Gulliver’s Travels and FernGully, with an added dash of Honey I Shrunk the Kids to bring us the story of M.K (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), a plucky 17-year-old who awkwardly reunites with her daffy scientist father (Jason Sudeikis) and becomes quickly exasperated by his obsession with tracking a tiny race of forest soldiers.
Geez, Dad, lame much?
In short order (sorry) M.K. finds herself shrunk down to join the pint-sized people, and to protect the future of the forest from the evil Boggans, lead by the suitably dastardly Mandrake (a great choice in Christoph Waltz).
So yes, the plot couldn’t even fill a cocktail napkin, but then again this is a kids’ film, and moreover, it’s a loose adaptation of William Joyce’s children's book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs – ah, hence the name change.
But though the story may be slight, the film is stacked with brilliantly colourful characters, a fabulous voice cast and simply spectacular animation. Beyoncé proves she can literally walk on water (albeit in animated form) playing Tara, the queen of the forest, while Colin Farrell delivers one of his most enjoyable characters since In Bruges (and you certainly can’t show the kids that!) as Ronin, the Queen’s ardent protector and leader of the Leafmen army. Now of course M.K. has to have a beau, and he comes in the form of Ronin’s rapscallion young charge Nod (Josh Hutcherson). If anything though, Nod is a little too good looking. The animators have gone to town on his cheekbones, and in some scenes I was left wanting to scrub the digital rouge off his cheeks. But he certainly delivers in the dreamboat department.
You can’t have an animation filled with forest creatures without serving up some serious anthropomorphized fun. And Epic delivers it in slimy spades with the inspired double-act of Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd playing a slug and snail respectively. These two would run away with the film if their slow-moving creatures were capable of it, but as it is they manage to juggle both the kid-friendly slapstick scenes, and the more adult level chuckles with impressive ease.
However the real scene-stealer in Epic is the animation. Director Chris Wedge (Ice Age) and his team at Blue Sky Studios have no problem living up to their name in a film filled with glorious aerial sequences. Ronin and his Leafmen travel on hummingbirds, and weaving through the forest with them is a 3D delight of, ok, almost, epic proportions. And like his onscreen hummingbirds, Wedge keeps up a speedy pace, with action, heart and jokes coming at an enthusiastic rate. Pace itself becomes an in-joke, with difference between the whip-fast forest creatures and their slow-mo ‘stomper’ human-sized counterparts playing out in a fun echo of TheMatrix bullet-time.
For anyone with young kids in tow, the real standard upon which to judge Epic is whether or not it’ll hold up to the inevitable, interminable repeated viewings demanded by your own pint-sized people. In fact, perhaps that’s the true meaning behind Epic? Because, yes, this shiny and fun-filled forest adventure will doubtless entertain oneverytrip. Published on TheVine Australian release date: 27 June 2013
Freelance writer, award winning film critic and shameless history nerd. The Plot Thickens has become an archive for my published scratchings - for publications including Limelight Magazine, The Guardian Australia, The Vine, SBS Film, The Big Issue, Mornings on 702 ABC Sydney as well as the Critics' Forum on Richard Glover's Drive. I also produce and host The Spoiler Guys podcast with Marc Fennell and Giles Hardie.
So, welcome to my brand of cinephilia: everything from Antonioni to Zoolander.