EPIC Movie Review: Many Leaves, One Tree

Full disclosure:  I hate spoilers, so there won’t be any in this EPIC movie review.  EPIC follows two separate story tracks that exist almost like parallel universes in the same space, until the story tracks narrow and converge.  The film is laid out that way, too, cutting back and forth between the stories until they merge onscreen.  There was much potential in this film, but, unfortunately, it fell flat.  My heartstrings weren’t plucked, my eyes didn’t tear up, and the kids in the audience seemed bored.  I haven’t read William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, on which this film is based, so I don’t know if the movie is a good adaptation.  However, a poor adaptation combined with the lack of emotion in the voices of the main characters (when I learned who the actors were – Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried – I wasn’t surprised by the lack of depth) could be the reason why this film ended up merely mediocre.  EPIC opens in theaters Friday, May 24.  For all of the press materials, updates, images, and trailers for EPIC, click here.  And continue reading for the full EPIC movie review.

EPIC

EPIC MOVIE REVIEW

Ever wondered if the stories you’ve heard about little people living in the garden are true?  So does Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), who has sacrificed just about everything, including his family, to track down the little people who live in the woods behind his house.  However, it’s not until his estranged daughter, M.K. (portrayed by Amanda Seyfried), returns to stay with him that he finally learns the truth.  She tries to talk him into dropping his obsession with the little people, but his ears are deaf to her pleas, because one of his alarms goes off, alerting him to activity in the woods and he takes off in search of proof.

EPIC

Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) and daughter MK (Amanda Seyfried) examine one of his discoveries. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

We viewers know, of course, that Professor Bomba is right, because we’ve already met the little people or Leafmen, as they call themselves.  Like a classic action film, the story opens with a battle and a chase, but not in cars.  These warriors fight on animals.  The good guys are handsome and small enough to ride hummingbirds, while the black-bird riding bad guys (Boggans) are ugly creatures with pointy teeth (and too many of them) and gray skin.  The Leafmen wear living plants as armor, while the Boggans wear rotting plants and the skeletons of dead animals.  We know right away who our hero is (Nod; played by Josh Hutcherson), because he’s the rebel, refusing to follow formation, getting himself into trouble and generally being a nuisance.

EPIC

When the stakes are high, Nod (Josh Hutcherson) discovers what it takes to be a true hero. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

EPIC

Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) Queen of the Forest. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

The Leafmen protect Tara, Queen of the Forest (Beyoncé Knowles), who must find the water lily pod which will be her replacement as the “life of the forest,” which can happen only once in a hundred years.  Mandrake (2x Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz), the leader of the Boggans, whose main goal is to cause everything to rot and die, needs to capture the water lily pod after it’s been chosen, but before it blooms to bring the forest down.  Mandrake and the Boggans ambush the choosing ceremony and Tara runs off into the woods with the pod.  [The story falls apart a little for me here.  Tara says she’s going to lead the Boggans away from the crowd to protect them, but she has the all-important pod with her.  Therefore, she’s endangering them all the more by risking the pod’s capture by Mandrake when she’s unprotected.]

EPIC

Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) flies into battle to claim the forest he believes should have always been his. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

The two worlds collide when M.K. tries to recapture Professor Bomba’s three-legged Pug, Ozzie, who has escaped and run into the woods.  She encounters Tara, who gives the pod to M.K. for safekeeping, which shrinks M.K. to Leafman size.  The two groups continue moving forward to the blooming time (under the full moon, of course), both fighting to be in control of the pod when it blooms.

It’s hard to say what message EPIC is trying to project.  On the one hand, “follow your dreams” and “stick to your guns” seem to be strong contenders.  In this case, Professor Bomba lost his family by doing that and, while his dreams were realized, it was almost too late.  In fact, it really was too late, in one sense.  For M.K., maybe the message was that she should have had faith in her father all along.  For the Leafmen story, teamwork and individuality are definitely the themes.  Nod rebels against working with the team, because he wants to be an individual, but learns throughout the film that being in a team doesn’t necessarily mean losing individuality.  For Mandrake and the Boggans, it seems to be that good triumphs over evil, but it wasn’t really clear that they were evil, just different in a dark way.  They preferred darkness and rot to light and liveliness, but essentially wanted the same thing as the Leafmen – for their way to be the only way and to control the outcome by having control of the power.  It almost feels like a 1950s allegory of the US/Russia struggle, where the Leafmen/America represent light and life and the Boggans/Russia represent darkness and death and the battle for power (nuclear or otherwise), with viewers meant to believe that the power is best in the hands of the Leafmen/America.

EPIC

When the forest and his beloved Queen come under siege, Ronin (Colin Farrell) takes to the skies to protect them. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

Visually, it’s a pretty film overall, with lots of lovely effects, such as the plants moving to create walkways under Tara’s feet, and the remarkable floral creatures in the forest.  Even the Boggans have their own special beauty, in particular, Mandrake’s bat cape (I have a fondness for bats).  The modern steampunk appearance of Professor Bomba’s equipment is fun to see and I can see it inspiring young minds to tinker and experiment with creating new things out of old.  The 3-D effects seemed limited to the depth of field.  The final credits are matched to background scenes and there are references to geographic locations that must be important to the filmmakers.  My favorite part of the credit was the special mention of the “Blue Sky Babies,” which appeared over children’s drawings of the characters.  The final screen told us that the film created over 12,000 jobs and took over 1,000,000 work hours to complete.

Standouts from the cast include Aziz Ansari (Mub, the slug), Chris O’Dowd (Grub, the snail), Pitbull (Bufo, the toad), and Steven Tyler (Nim Galuu, the aged and wise caterpillar).  Mub and Grub steal every one of their scenes, especially Mub (the eye gags are hilarious and he got the bulk of the laughs), and Bufo has probably the funniest line in the film – “Pooper of Parties.”  Nim’s character doesn’t make a lot of sense, given that caterpillars morph into butterflies in much less than a hundred years and there’s a “lifespan of the fruit fly” gag in the film, so timing seems to be on par, but Steven Tyler does a great job playing him and we get to listen to him sing a bit, which makes it all the better that he’s in the movie.

Steven Tyler with his EPIC character Nim Galuu

Steven Tyler with his EPIC character Nim Galuu. Blue Sky Studios – TM and © 2013 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

 

EPIC is family friendly, though probably for younger children, rather than teens.  Very young children might be frightened by the battle scenes or the dark characters, but there weren’t any startling moments, at least not too startling for the children in the theater, none of whom seemed frightened.  The movie wasn’t particularly engaging, but it was pleasant enough.  The most heart-wrenching moment, towards the end of the film, seemed manipulative (thrown in as a last-minute attempt to draw a tear) and was noticeably so, in the absence of any touching moments earlier in the film (despite the obvious potential for such moments, based on the story).  I’m not mad that I saw this movie, but I wouldn’t go see it again.

Now it’s your turn.  If you’ve seen EPIC, please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.  Do you agree or disagree with our EPIC movie review?  For more family entertainment news be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.