Rivalling DreamWorks and Pixar animation studios is certainly no easy task, but Blue Sky Studios are triumphantly getting along with things, consistently making a profit on their reasonable back catalogue. Boasting the likes of Rio and the popular Ice Age franchise, they now return with Chris Wedge’s Epic, an adventure in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids mould. However, though this may certainly be a more advanced, contemporary take on the the 1989 family adventure, it’s lacking in that same ingenuity.
When teenager Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) loses her mother to illness, she is forced to go and live with her estranged and somewhat unconventional father (Jason Sudeikis), who is completely transfixed with the idea that a community of miniature people live in the forest. Though sceptical, when MK is magically transported into a tiny person, deep into the forest, she becomes embroiled in a war between good and evil. She is entrusted by Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) with the future of this enchanting world, with the responsibility of caring after the unborn future queen, doing all she can to avoid it falling into the evil hands of Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). Though fortunately she is assisted by loyal servants and fierce protectors Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), in a battle to save the forest once and for all.
In a similar vein to Rise of the Guardians, Epic depicts a tale of preserving something special to all of us, as a real action packed animation – though not as dark or aesthetically impressive as the aforementioned title, this certainly has much more heart to it. However where Epic falls short is within the lack of comedic aspects, and though you must appreciate this is more adventure orientated, there are so few moments that provoke genuine laughter, and such moments of light relief so often light up children’s animations, allowing an accessibility for the older audience to get involved. The slug and snail, played by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd, respectively, are intended to be the comedic characters, however a lacklustre screenplay ensures this not be the case.
The story – though nonsensical at times – tells an overtly conventional tale of good versus evil, a sentiment enhanced visually, and somewhat palpably, as the protagonists are decorated in a vibrant ambiance and colourful surroundings, while the villains live in dark and desolate conditions. In the meanwhile, the message of looking after your environment and the future of your home land is forever pertinent, as we touch upon environmental themes too, of preserving our nature and forests. Also, the relationship between MK and her father is poignantly well crafted.
The stellar voice cast steals the show however, though in a sense, it becomes almost too distinguishable. The likes of Beyoncé, O’Dowd and Waltz all have such recognisable voices that it becomes difficult to differentiate between actor and character, growing increasingly off putting as a result. That said, the experience and glittering credentials of the cast proves its worth, giving the film that touch of class. Waltz in particular is a fine piece of casting, as a man who has a voice ripe for the big, bad villain in a family adventure movie, adding a depth and multilayered aspect to the role that few other actors could have managed. The only problem is, the script is simply not sharp enough to do his talent justice, and his somewhat sinister yet jovial tone of which he has become renowned for, is wasted on a film bearing so few witty interactions.
Nonetheless, there is a lot to be admired about Wedges’ Epic, as an action packed adventure movie that does little to offend and will certainly find an audience amongst the younger crowd. It also looks great up on the big screen, and although flawed in places, it certainly lives up to its rather presumptuous title in both sentiment and scale.