Review: 'Epic'

When you name your film "Epic" you're probably just setting yourself up for failure, right? For instance, if I named a documentary "Awesome Sauce" people would likely complain that it wasn't awesome, or even sauce, and they'd be well within their rights to do so. Still, naming aside, "Epic" could have been good, except that it wasn't, it was stone cold terrible, something even a six-year-old might scoff at. I know, I'm just as sad as you are about the whole thing.

The plot is simplistic, if not exactly simple. Mary Katherine and her dad, Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) are trying to reconnect after what one can only assume was a very long estrangement. It's tough to piece the timeline together, but evidently Mary's mom passed away, but only after the mom and Bomba divorced, probably because his name was Bomba. Erm, no, it was because Bomba's life work was finding little "Leaf Men" in the forest, so he didn't have room for a special lady in his life, as he was always too busy traipsing through the forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of these Leaf Men riding their hummingbirds (what would a couple's therapist have made of that?).

The Leaf Men, of course, do actually exist, Bomba is on to something, and they are locked in a perennial battle with a group called the Boggins, who only want to see the forest destroyed. These worlds, big Bomba land, and the tiny Leaf Man one, will collide in old and not exciting ways, playing out something like "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" meets "Apocalypto". No, that's not precisely accurate, as that might have actually been an interesting film, whereas this one is decidedly not. "Epic" is classic commercialism with no real connection to organic storytelling, odd, because the tale takes place completely surrounded by nature.

Issue number one for the movie is death. Not as in "the first issue kills the story," it's more like "Epic" decides to tackle death exclusively in the opening act. Sure, that's an odd place to start a children's film, but it's exactly where "Epic" plants its flag for the opening ten minutes. Our teenage heroine, Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), has a recently deceased mother. This seems to be a common theme in family fare, though I have no idea why films meant for young people so often go this route, but it's not a deal breaker in and of itself. But then too the main fella, Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson) has a recently deceased dad. Is this so they can relate? Or perhaps form their own "Brady Bunch"?

There's no telling, but thankfully death isn't through with us yet. The bad guys, who are pretty much orcs riding crows, launch an attack on the Leaf Men (who are pretty much elves). During the attack, one of the Boggins (orcs) is thrown off his ride and falls to his death. You read that correctly, he plummets and then splats on a car windshield. Evidently life is cheap within "Epic," which brings us to our fourth victim, Mary Katherine's turtle, who it's hinted was left to starve to death, and all because her idiot father didn't feed him for a couple years. So kids, take note, death is right around the corner, adults are perishable, and feeding your animals isn't mandatory. Awesome sauce!

The screenplay credits a stunning five writers, which means that everyone took a shot at making this film a little worse. Jokes like Bomba being clumsy (and falling in the forest) are repeated continually, a putrid love angle is considered, and there's no real pacing or story arc to speak of. Scene by scene, you hope they'll pull out of it, but everything proceeds exactly as you'd predict, until the movie finally goes "splat". There's the rebellious hero theme, the "gotta get back to my world" nonsense, and the Queen of Nature (voiced by Beyonce!) just wants everyone to smile and for the forest to stay in balance. The overly sullen protector guy, Ronin (Colin Farrell) learns a lesson, oh heck, everyone learns a lesson, until the lessons beat you about the head and shoulders like mosquitos next to a swamp. Plus, that python coming to get you is the third act, egads, it might be a decent plan to take your little ones to an hour of this … and then bail for the playground or greener pastures.

To hand out a few kudos, accentuating the positive, Aziz Ansari as "Mub the slug" was generally fun to listen to; he had the only jokes in the entire endeavor that landed. Additionally, Christoph Waltz voices an excellent villain, Mandrake, though the character is massively one note. Sadly, their contributions are like a stone against a raging river of obvious, nothing and no one could have saved this movie (short of starting over).

Near the end, "Epic" truly reaches new depths when it doesn't gild the lily, it blasts it with glitter spray paint until there's nothing left but a wilted flower and a noxious fumes. "Epic" is a film that looks relatively good, and it has a somewhat positive message (once you get past the mortality angle), but it's going to be pure punishment for adults. Sure, parents regularly make sacrifices for their children, but it sure seems like everyone's time could be better spent watching a real movie, with real characters, based in a world where creatively isn't forgotten, and decent storytelling rules the day .

SCORE: 3.0 / 10

Laremy wrote the book on film criticism and thinks crows have been unfairly targeted by the animation business.