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Epic (3D) (2013)

20th Century Fox // PG // May 24, 2013
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted May 24, 2013 | E-mail the Author

There's another animation studio on the rise that is attempting to stand on the same level as Pixar Animation and DreamWorks. This company is called Blue Sky Studios, which presented us with Rio back in 2011. While a studio's animation is crucial for this type of film, the narrative and its characters are always more important than its visuals. These family features have numerous entries that have touched the hearts of children and adults around the world, but due to the pictures' animation. The most enchanting element is the plot and the infectious characters who are able to draw us in. When a film such as this focuses on its animation over its story, it often feels hollow. This is the case with Chris Wedge's Epic.

A young teenager named Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) is forced to move back in with her father. She wants to leave as soon as possible due to her father's obsession with Leafmen that live within the woods. Both of them are ultimately caught within the crossfire of the battle of good versus evil that is taking place. Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) represents the life of the woods, while Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) is the rot and decay that continues to eat everything that is living. Unless Queen Tara is able to present her powers to a new queen, then decay will dominate the world's life force. A group of unlikely heroes must assemble in order to ensure the safety of Queen Tara's powers.

Epic isn't a remake, sequel, or prequel, but it doesn't feel like it's own film. From the first act, the comparisons between this new animated adventure and Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz are striking. The remainder of the plot has scenes that are almost identical to fantasy flicks such as Avatar and other big blockbuster hits. Since this is made for families, it's toned down considerably. However, the characters should be a lot more likable than they are. While Mary Katherine most certainly delivers the most heart, none of the characters will keep you invested in them. Both the Leafmen and the "Stompers" (as they call us) are equally one-dimensional. These animated flicks generally pack as much comedy as they possibly can. Epic is no exception, but the humor is primarily restricted to children. The majority of the laughs come from mediocre slapstick that will have kids laughing up a storm. There are a few jokes to be found throughout this animated motion picture for adults, which work quite nicely. It's a shame that they are in such a small quantity throughout the running time. If you find yourself watching this, you'll likely be seeing it for the action sequences and not the comedy.

Despite its high amount of predictability, the narrative surely improves as it continues. Once Mary Katherine joins forces with the Leafmen, the journey starts to get better. It's amusing to watch the kingdom's warriors utilize the environment in nearly every aspect of their armor, weaponry, and battle tactics. It definitely makes for a more engaging battle of good versus evil. The majority of the plot takes place with the heroes, but the film transitions to Mandrake's rotted segment of the woods. This evildoer makes for a solid villain who dedicates all of his time to creating plans to transform the kingdom into rot. He receives a surprisingly small amount of screen time for a main antagonist, but his interactions with the protagonists are easily some of the best moments of the picture. As an antagonist who is so dedicated to decay that he covers himself in rot, he could have made for a more memorable villain. This is an example of a role being criminally underused.

The screenplay explores multiple themes, which will surely be well-received. Epic is largely about family, friends, and that we're all heroes in our own individual way. One of the central concepts is that nobody needs super abilities in order to make a difference. While it isn't subtle, this animated adventure never becomes too heavy-handed with it. This could have easily turned into a tacky mess, but it's kept under control. The more sentimental moments are executed rather well, which prove to be the most convincing sequences of the entire motion picture. Even though these scenes work, this flick still lacks the heart that some of the better animated features use in order to keep us captivated.

Voiceover work has captured the interest of singers, as well as actors. Beyoncé Knowles and Pitbull can be found voicing the characters of Queen Tara and Bufo the toad, respectively. Despite my feelings towards singers on the big screen, these voices fit the roles nicely. Colin Farrell and Josh Hutcherson deliver solid work as Ronin and Nod, who are Leafmen fighting for the safety of the queen's powers. Christoph Waltz is impressive as Mandrake. He fits the antagonist role like a glove. The voice work is ultimately successful in breathing some life into these characters.

Blue Sky Studios has put a large amount of work into Epic when it comes to the animation. Objects and environments prove to be the most breath-taking, but the character designs are solid, as well. Facial features are flat, but everything else on screen is absolutely dazzling. Director Chris Wedge utilizes the visual design to its full potential when viewing it in 2D. When it comes to the 3D format, it delivers what I expected. The action sequences pop, but the remainder of the running time presents an extremely small amount of depth. The kids will enjoy the gimmick, but it isn't necessarily worth the extra few dollars. Otherwise, these talented animators bring out even the smallest of details within the environments.

This isn't a bad flick about "good versus evil", although it walks an all-too familiar path. While the animation is stunning, the humor only delivers a few decent jokes and the villain is underused. This will surely be a hit amongst younger audiences, although it won't draw adults in as easily. There isn't a single dull moment and the action sequences are entirely entertaining, although it's missing a substantial amount of heart that would have improved the final product. Epic is forgettable, but it's worth seeing once if you enjoy family films. Rent it.



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