There's something to be said for an animated feature that includes vocal work by the likes of rapper Pitbull, rocker Steven Tyler, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, singer/actress Beyonce Knowles and a host of others.
I'm not sure exactly "what" is to be said, but something is definitely to be said.
Epic is your basic "good versus evil" film, a film that espouses universal life lessons against the backdrop of visually arresting animation that far transcends anything else that unfolds on the big screen. Epic feels like it's constantly on the edge of being the truly epic film that it wants to be and most likely the film that attracted its all-star cast.
It's easy to imagine that this was a film that looked freaking amazing on paper, a powerful film with powerful messages, interesting characters, intriguing ideas and a fantasy world. What could go wrong?
People start talking. Actually, I suppose that's not fair. The vocal work itself is fine, but Epic seems to become so hellbent on being an actual epic that the story that unfolds never comes close to living up to the film's lofty visions. To say that Epic rips off films before it, both live action and animated, is ludicrously understated. While the visuals are arresting and unique, the story that unfolds is paint-by-numbers at its grandest and so frequently brings to mind other films that it becomes distracting.
The biggest problem isn't so much the story, this is a children's film after all, but just how dialogue heavy and expository the film actually presents it all. The story centers around M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), a young girl whose scientist father (Jason Sudeikis) has been hunting a mysterious world into which she suddenly finds herself having entered where Rot is being spread by the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). We are quickly drawn into a world where there's a very clear division between those who mean the world evil and those who are trying to save it, the latter being led by Ronin (Colin Farrell), a Queen of sorts (Beyonce Knowles) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a warrior whose adventures through the forest are most visually arresting of all. These "good" beings ride atop hummingbirds, beautifully created by the folks at Blue Sky Studios, who've brought in Chris Wedge (Ice Age) to direct.
Truthfully, it's the magicians who seem most out of place here and, perhaps, even bordering a bit on the racist side when it comes to Pitbull's more thug-like character. Beyonce's rather maternal character feels like the type of character usually played by Julia Roberts but on steroids, while Steven Tyler's turn as Nim Galuu may be more misguided than his year on "American Idol." Okay, I'm exaggerating. Tyler actually pulls everything off far better than I expected, but one can't escape the faint notion that he sounds more than a little high as this precious little caterpillar. All of these characters aren't particularly awful - just unnecessary and, again, at times to the point of distracting.
As much as I found myself bogged down within the story, the more I allowed myself to be immersed in the visuals of Epic the more satisfied I became. While I seldom find myself a fan of the often over-utilized 3-D imagery, this adventure created by Blue Sky Studios benefits from it greatly and if you can find yourself letting go of the dialogue then you will likely find yourself much more happy with the film. I can picture a world where the volume is turned all the way down and, yes, you can still follow the story and have a far more satisfying cinematic experience.
Epic, I suspect, will prove to be far more enjoyable to those unlikely myself who don't see several films a week. If you're not weighted down by the film's formulaic and familiar story/dialogue, then you'll be much more likely to immerse yourself in its awe-inspiring world filled with interesting characters and life-affirming lessons.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic