May 30, 2013

'Epic' conveys sense of grandeur


---- — A movie has to be brave to give itself a name like “Epic,” which could so easily be coupled with “fail” by film critics.

Fortunately, this particular film succeeds on a small-scale, animated action-adventure level, if not quite an epic one.

Made by the creators of “Ice Age” and “Rio” — directed by Chris Wedge, from the first “Ice Age” (also the voice of Scrat) — “Epic” has a somewhat predictable story, but it’s well-paced, outstanding visually and provides a few well-placed chuckles.

Amanda Seyfried (“Les Miserables”) voices M.K., a kind-hearted young teen who is moving into a secluded, rundown home with her absent-minded, estranged father (Jason Sudeikis).

The dad has dedicated his life to finding tiny humanoid creatures who he is certain live in the forest around him. Sure enough, M.K. finds out that he was right, when she is magically shrunk and thrust into a tiny battle of good vs. evil.

On the side of good are the heroic leafmen, flashing swords and zooming around in formation on hummingbirds, led by the stoic Ronin (Colin Farrell) and the warm, powerful Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles).

Speaking for evil is Hollywood’s top Nazi voice, Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds”), as Mandrake, the villainous leader of the Boggans, a nasty insect-like race who want to rot the forest down to the ground.

Josh Hutcherson voices the dashing and rebellious young leafman Nod — around to clash with Ronin and flirt with M.K. —while the comic relief is provided, satisfyingly, by Grub and Mub, a snail and slug played by Chris O’Dowd (“Bridesmaids”) and Aziz Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”). Steven Tyler voices a wise old caterpillar who knows everything about the forest.

The animated action is fast and flashy, and “Epic” has a surprisingly large-scale sense of grandeur. Ultimately, the film may be a little too simple for adults, but the younger generation will find plenty to like.

Rental Recommendation: Kids battle unseen creatures in their own backyard in “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” Grade: B

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Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Christoph Walsh

Rated: PG (for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language)

Running time: 102 minutes