Have you watched Ferngully: The Last Rainforest? Then you have watched Epic by proxy. Despite its astounding animation and A-list cast there’s nothing unique about the story that can’t be found in the previous 1990s film. In several instances, Epic squanders its potential by refusing to allow anything bad to truly happen, and leaving the voice cast to sell this derivative tale.
A young girl named MK (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) discovers that a group of tiny forest warriors, known as Leafmen, are fighting a war against the evil Boggans. When MK gets shrunken down to Leafmen size, she teams up with warriors Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell) and Nod (voiced by Josh Hutcherson) to save the forest.
It’s hard to refrain from comparing this to Ferngully because so much of this film is directly lifted from that one. Both feature shrunken humans who don’t believe in the human/pixie life with tine forest; and both deal with a villain bent on covertly destroying the forest (thankfully, it’s not MAN!). With that, there is a beauty and vibrancy to the animation within Epic. The various racing sequences and shots of the forest are beautiful and don’t always appear to be CGI. Of course, once the characters show up the illusion is shattered.
The flaws within Epic ultimately overshadow the spellbinding animation. The overabundance of actors creates moments where the narrative has to cater to the vocal cast. Beyonce Knowles is given a cameo role as the queen of the forest whereas the plot actually stops to give Steven Tyler a song since he plays a caterpillar with information; other actors who are given throwaway roles include Pitbull, if that tells you the soundtrack was more important than the movie. Other than that, the comic relief ends up overpowering the core trio of characters. You should be interested in Ronin, MK, and Nod who are various shades of bland; instead, the movie foists a pair of annoying snail/slugs voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd. The actors are funny in other things, but the constant slug jokes and the fact that they’re neither particularly intriguing nor able to do as many things as the humans, makes you wonder why they’re shoehorned into almost every scene. As if they aren’t enough of a distraction, the movie includes a father/daughter subplot that goes nowhere. MK and her father (voiced by Jason Sudekis) have an estranged relationship due to his obsessive need to discover the Leafmen. However, instead of giving them resolution via heart-to-heart or something, MK just learns to love the Leafmen in order to bond with her father, at all; proof that the subplot is unnecessary because the script isn’t interested in closing the door on it!
Seyfried, Hutcherson, and Farrell work with the flimsy amount of story they’re given. None of the trio does anything astounding, but in the case of Farrell he appears to be there for the check. He’s the capable one of the group, but the script forsakes that for a pair of cool, rebellious teens. Really, Hutcherson is no different from the Chris Pine character in Rise of the Guardians. The true waste is Christoph Waltz as the villain, Mandrake. Since the movie is desperate for small children, he’s never allowed to be evil or intimidating.
Overall, Epic is a lushly animated story, but it lacks said lushness in the storytelling. The cast of characters are dumped in favor of one-note vocal A-listers and side characters whose comedic shtick gets old, fast. You’re better off finding your copy of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest.