"Epic" is epically mediocre
By Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
In the possible but admittedly unlikely event that the idea occurred to anyone, no, "Epic" is not a feature-length animated adaptation of the 1989 Faith No More rap metal hit. Given the elaborate, over determined worlds of the movie's storyline and the possible titles offered by those, one can't blame the filmmakers and the studio for picking, ancient MTV associations notwithstanding, such a simultaneously vague and generic title. (As it happens, the book from which it was adapted is called "The Leaf Men And The Brave Good Bugs.") A 3D eco-fantasy whose mantra-like insistence that we're all connected by nature is one of the main things that underscores the abject insincerity of the sentiment as the movie articulates it, "Epic" is very nearly epic in its stifling mediocrity.
The movie begins with an orgy of flying and battling in open blue skies above a forest, with green-clad "Leaf Men" (for that is indeed what they call themselves) atop hummingbirds, chased by gray, pestilence-bearing Brogans, who travel atop ravens; these forces apparently battle for supremacy in the forest, and once one of them falls from the sky and goes splat on a taxicab windshield, we understand these civilizations are much smaller than our own. In the cab rides regular-scale human teen Mary Katherine, who prefers to be called MK, en route to set up house with her estranged dad, an absent-minded professor whose obsession with the wee creatures that no one else in the scientific community believes in has cost him his professional rep. Which, in the cartoon world, means you can still afford a big spacious house and lots of equipment, but never mind. For a bit the movie toggles between the awkward relationship between MK and dad and the good wee creatures' quest to find a new queen via a pod that can only blossom under the fullest of full moons...but then of course there must occur the contrivance that shrinks down MK and puts her into the shrunken, faster-moving forest world, where she'll learn all about the aforementioned connections between all living things and be on the receiving end of romantic attention from a rebel not-quite Leaf Man and a hot to trot slug.
The slug and his snail sidekick seemed familiar types at first, kinda like the feuding idiots in Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress," that is, the inspirations for a couple of 'droids in "Star Wars." A frog who runs odds for hummingbird races put me in mind of "The Phantom Menace," too, so I suppose I ought to be grateful that no Jar Jar Binks analog showed up.
While the movie has one or two moments of inspired action and/or design (an encounter between MK and an initially cute now-giant mouse is a good piece of cartoon slapstick played out to a funny conclusion), most of its elements, from its slick look to its completely arbitrary send-in-the-random celebs voice casting (Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfried, Beyonce, and, um, Pitbull are among the many famous who chime in for no other good reason than they were asked to, and then paid to), deliver exactly the sort of amiable banality that too many latter-day animated attractions have been increasingly leading us to expect. It seems churlish to dismiss a product that so clearly took up so very many man-hours of labor, but in the case of "Epic," seeing really is disbelieving.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.