Review: 'Epic' flies, there is no fail

Posted at 05/24/13 5:37 PM

Queen Tara with Grub&Mub in EPIC (3D). Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

MANILA, Philippines - "Epic" fail or just plain "Epic"? With a title like that, "Epic" carries great expectations and it does deliver after a fashion. The concept deserves the name, but the actual execution is several notches lower than great.

Here's the concept: Imagine a world living in its own vibrational frequency, where ordinary, lumbering folk like us live in dial-up while the microscopic world are on 4G. For every action we take, they can do 50 more -- at the beat of hummingbird wings. For that idea alone, "Epic" deserves a look to see how these two worlds collide and overlap.

The story follows normal teen Mary Katherine "MK" (Amanda Seyfried), who must reconcile with her dad, Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), after her mother died. Dad has spent a lifetime chasing after tiny Leafmen in the forest nearby. Of course, it is the daughter who discovers the world of the Leafmen after witnessing their queen, Tara (Beyonce Knowles), die in an attack by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), leader of the Boggans. Now, it's up to MK to help Leafmen Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson) protect a magical bulb that will choose a new queen of the forest and prevent the rot from spreading.

Let's get the bad out of the way: "Epic" misses the mark on greatness due to several things.

A) The design work sometimes feels uninspired, like they're riffing off The Spiderwick Chronicles.

B) The Leafmen talk like uninteresting, ordinary people. The Beyonce queen acts just like Beyonce. The annoying teen hero Nod acts like a regular teen (except less than an inch tall). In short, the lead characters aren't very memorable because they put plot first over story. If I was living like a Micronaut, I'd have my own language, culture, etc, etc...Also, there's something seriously wrong when your most memorable characters are 2 wise-cracking molluscs voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd.

(BTW, Wayne's World called. They want their 'say what' joke back.)

C) The stakes aren't quite high. Example: One reason why "How to Train Your Dragon" is so good in repeat viewings is that the giant mega-dragon in the end turns the story from a fun "boy and his dragon" romp to real action-adventure material. Here, the final battle has Leafmen fighting...a bat colony.

But it does get a lot of things right. The relationship between MK and her dad carries real emotional weight as he justifies his obsession with the Leafmen. Also, not once did I recall "Ferngully: The Last Rainforest" while watching (although the eco-tract message makes it an easy comparison).

"Epic" is also immersive, like "Avatar" without the Thundersmurfs. My favorite part: a caterpillar named
Nim Galuu (voiced by Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler) has a library of scrolls where the collective knowledge of the Leafmen are written by moths. Now, that's epic.

The overlap of the 2 worlds, when MK and the 2 Leafmen show up at her house, fires up the imagination.

Now I want a sequel, where the whole microscopic world gets a story worthy of their concept. All the set pieces are there. Now, it's up to Blue Sky animators to make it work.