Epic had it all in the way of animation — vivid, luscious color and remarkable creativity and imagination. What it lacked was a script and voices that fit the characters. But I hardly blame the actors who provided the voices, though Beyonce Knowles (Queen Tara) is obviously no actress if this is any indication of her ability. No. The actors had nothing to work with and it showed. Saturday morning cartoon voices are more animated.
The story made stabs at addressing current family relationship problems, both in the big people world of the “stompers”, and in the little people world of the forest — big person teenager Mary Katherine, or MK (Amanda Seyfried) with her father, the eccentric science professor (Jason Sudeikis); and little person teenager, Nod (Josh Hucherson), with his guardian and Leafman commander, Ronin (Colin Farrell). But the attempt to cook up half-way believable human emotions descended into simply high fructose corn syrup. A really great big YUK.
And speaking of yuk, the one-legged family dog was disgusting rather than funny, and will appeal to 10-year-old boys, as will the slugs who try to be cool in an icky and totally grody, non-humorous way.
The character of Queen Tara was as silly as a seven-year-old at her first pajama party. Her teasing of Leafman leader Ronin, whose job was to protect both his queen and the entire forest from the bad guys called Boggans, was ludicrous. She was constantly trying to get the grim commander to smile and loosen up. It might have worked if done right and in the right circumstances. But this was equivalent to a little syrupy-voiced beauty queen trying to convince General Schwarzkopf to loosen up while under siege by desert rats.
There’s a touch of “Wizard of Oz” in Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler), the six-armed caterpillar scroll keeper who does magic tricks and tries to keep everyone in high spirits. This, in turn, would make Queen Tara a kind of Glinda the Good Witch; Mary Katherine (or MK), a kind of pseudo Dorothy; and MK’s ancient, disgusting, one-legged pug a kind of Toto. Oh, man, is that reaching!! Then there is the Yellow Brick Road, which in Epic is a trail of snail slime. Geeesh! I don’t even want to go there.
The final battle between the Leafmen and the Boggans was a night scene where the future of the forest lay with a small pod which had to bloom by moonlight. But it was so dark it was hard to distinguish friend from foe and who was doing what to whom. They simply looked like so many dark bodies limned by intermittent moonlight.
I couldn’t believe that the same people who brought us Ice Age and Scrat, the hilarious pre-historic squirrel, were the same ones who did Epic. No way were they the same writers, though Chris Wedge was the producer for both. Ice Age, all three of them, crossed all age and gender boundaries, appealing as much to adults as children, to male as well as female. Epic is based loosely on a book by William Joyce, “The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs”, but was changed to make the epic adventure. I love animation when it’s done right. I loved “Monsters, Inc” and “Despicable Me”. Sadly, except for the dazzling animation, this film will probably only appeal to children.
There were very brief high points, which were well covered in some of the official trailers. There was the scene with the fruit fly and his pathetic little life-span; the young people holding on to the slugs’ antennae, or projected eye-balls (I’m not really an expert on slugs), but the really funny one in the trailer was not in the movie. There were a few little scenes not covered in the trailers, including one where a dandelion shakes another dandelion to keep her from panicking (you can imagine the result).
The visual effects in Epic are stunning if you can stomach the story all the way to the end — the Leafmen and their humming-bird mounts with those tiny saddles; the animated flowers with tiny, human-like features, their hair and dress an imaginative creation of what they look like in reality; the scene where Queen Tara is carried in a lily pad by dragonflies and deposited on a pond, where she steps daintily from one little pad to another, the train of her flower petal gown trailing behind.
Epic is indeed a world beyond imagination, opened up to those of us without such imagination by those who do. But other than the brilliant animation, Epic was an epic bomb.