Movie review: Epic

For not just years but decades, there was only one name synonymous with animated features: Disney. This cartoon monopoly has waned in recent years, with the emergence of studios like Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.

A relatively new kid on the animated block is Blue Sky Studios; their name may not be anywhere near as familiar as those mentioned above, but they've had an impressive amount of success (with the Ice Age franchise, Robots and Rio) in a fairly short amount of time. Epic is the latest title to be added to their growing colourful portfolio.

Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) has a passion for his work, so much so that it cost him his marriage and family. When his wife dies however, his teenage daughter Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) is sent to stay with him.

Not long after arriving at his home M.K. – as she now likes to be known – realises that nothing's changed. Her father still appears to be obsessed with the notion that another world exists within our very own, just on a smaller scale.

Although she still cares for him, she feels it's a mistake to stay and makes the decision to leave. Just as she's about to, her father's dog Ozzy, who, despite being long in the tooth, one-eyed and three-legged, still manages to make a break for it and runs off into the woods. M.K. gives chase, but is soon comes across a glowing leaf, which she grabs. As she does, she finds that her entire being is shrunk.

In her new diminutive state, she's hit by the sudden realisation: her dad was right all along, as she soon finds herself in a whole new world. Looking out for her are Ronin (Colin Farrell) and the young dashing Nod (Josh Hutcherson), members of the Leaf Men, who are charged with looking after a special bud – chosen by their queen (Beyoncé Knowles) – who has picked M.K. to look after it.

But the bud, which contains the life of the forest, is also wanted by the Boggans, led by the very evil Mandrake (Christolph Waltz), so they can spread decay and darkness throughout their land. So with Mandrake determined to get hold of the bud, it's not only M.K. in danger, but a whole miniature world.

Blue Sky may not be a household name as yet, but they know their animated onions. Epic is a stunning achievement, bringing as it does a beautifully wooded world of wonder to existence. The forest setting, with its sharp colour palette, feels like a David Attenborough documentary coming to animated life. And it also benefits from being in 3D, as the extra depth helps the world, created by Chris Wedge, live and breathe.

The story, based on the 1996 book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, is a simple one that pits good versus evil within a natural scenario.

Where the film fails to match up with more recent animated films is in the character stakes. Although well animated, there just aren't any real big personalities amongst them. Even the villain of the piece, played by Waltz, just doesn't have a dark enough presence about him and is completely forgettable. And the lack of any stand-out characters, as well as any sparkling dialogue, make the film's cast all disappointingly wet. Even having Chris O'Dowd on board, voicing the character Grub the snail, who has the ability to inject real comedy into a role, is nothing more than decidedly average here.

It's certainly bright and colourful enough to entertain the youngsters, but in no way can it be considered a classic, making it epic in name only.

3 booms

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