MRR Review: "Epic"

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Mary Katherine, a teenager is magically transported to a deep forest setting where a battle between the forces of good and evil is being waged. She bands together with a rag-tag group of characters in order to save their world -- and ours.
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MRR Review: "Epic"

Rating: PG (mild action, some scary images, brief rude language)
Length: 102 minutes
Release Date: May 24, 2013
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Genre: Animation/Adventure/Family

Teenager Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), who goes by the name M.K., has a researcher father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), who seems more interested in his work than he does in his daughter. She tries to be understanding, but she just doesn't get his obsession with the mythical leaf men who may not even exist. It is this obsession that gets the real heart of the plot rolling in "Epic," a film with a scope that truly lives up to its name.

M.K. comes to live with her father after her mother tragically dies, which makes for an awkward living situation. His home is near the forest where he swears the leaf men live, which provides him easy access for his research. M.K. gets tired of having to deal with her father's long absences, so she leaves him a note and goes off into the woods where she finds a golden leaf that she picks up to inspect. It turns out this leaf is more than she bargained for, and all of a sudden, M.K. has shrunk to a fraction of her former height. Being so tiny enables her to find the leaf men, who do exist after all. Their leader Ronin (Colin Farrell) takes her to the queen of the forest, Tara (Beyonce), who tasks M.K. with getting a magical flower to Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler) in order to help keep the forest safe from the Boggans.

The Boggans are led by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), who would love nothing more than to see the entire forest rot. He spreads his rot far and wide while trying to locate the magical flower that is now in the hands of M.K., Ronin, fledgling leaf man warrior Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a snail named Grub (Chris O'Dowd), and a slug named Mub (Aziz Ansari). While they traverse the forest in search of Nim Galuu, the group faces danger on several fronts, which becomes something of a learning opportunity for M.K. and Nod, who have a rather amorous attraction to each other. Will this wily group of humans, warriors, and mollusks be able to save the day, or will Mandrake let his rot spread until it strangles all the life out of the forest?

The film's screenplay is based on the book The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, who also had a hand in writing the screenplay. While "Epic" doesn't completely follow every aspect of Joyce's book, it does capture the spirit and tone properly. There are other elements that have been added for the movie, which is par for the course with Hollywood book adaptations. However, the other screenwriters have been careful not to mess with the best parts of the book, and they have actually enhanced the source material with their new additions. Fans of a beloved book are not always happy with the film version, but fans of The Leaf Men and The Brave Good Bugs will likely be thrilled when they leave the theater after having seen "Epic."

There are plenty of great performances in "Epic," but arguably the best come from supporting players Ansari and O'Dowd, who play Mub and Grub. A snail and a slug seem like unlikely creatures to provide the comic relief, but here they are absolutely hilarious. There is definitely a somewhat serious and heartfelt message in the film, but these two characters definitely give the film some levity to balance things out. It probably shouldn't be a surprise, since both actors are breakout stars who have come into the public conscience in recent years, but the level of laughter is still a bit of a revelation. There are plenty of highlights in "Epic," but Ansari and O'Dowd are the best of them all.

Most in Hollywood would agree that for years Pixar has been the gold standard for animated films, creating rich stories and flawless animation that both children and adults love in equal measure. With "Epic," Fox Animation makes a play for the crown, showing just how far they've come in a relatively short space of time. Every single detail in the film feels deliberate, and they are all animated in a way that is beautiful to watch. It's a feast for the eyes whether you see it in 2D or 3D because it is directed so well by Chris Wedge, who was also at the helm of 2002's "Ice Age." The film pretty much puts all the other CGI houses on warning that there is new competition in the animated feature world, and it is very formidable.

Rating: 3 out of 5