Film Review: EPIC (G, general release, 102 minutes) 2 STARS
Director: Chris Wedge Stars: Colin Farrell, Amanda Seyfrid, Beyonce, Christophe Waltz
One has become slightly blasé about the possibilities of computer animation, but the opening sequence of this bright and breezy Blue Sky Studios animation is spectacular.
As a lanky, eccentric-looking man charges through a forest with a strange magnifying device attached to his head, it becomes clear that he's after something pretty special. Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis) is convinced he's found evidence of little people, or fairies, near his home.
He never quite manages to capture them on film, but above his head a tiny battle is quietly raging. The life of the forest is kept safe by the Leafmen, a miniature army of warriors who serve Queen Tara (Beyoncé), a mystical, benevolent leader. Her sworn enemy is Mandrake (Christoph Waltz, below), a snarling villain whose very touch withers plants and trees and who wants to seize control of the forest and lay it to waste. His odious force of Boggins are held in check by the Leafmen, but when Queen Tara is killed, the balance of nature is fatally shaken.
Epic is based on a children's story by William Joyce, and Amanda Seyfried voices the character who connects the human and fairy worlds. Mary Katherine is Professor Bomba's son. When she's shrunk by magic before the queen's death, she is drawn into the battle between good and evil, and takes a shine to a dashing young Leafman called Nod (Josh Hutcherson). Colin Farrell plays the Leafmen's grizzled commander, Ronin, and comic relief of sorts is provided by Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari, who voice respectively a snail and a slug.
As I mentioned at the start, Epic is really nicely animated for the most part and the flying battle sequences work extremely well in 3D. The problem with this film is not so much its execution but its inception: there's something hopelessly muddled about the way the fairy world is established and no one character succeeds in capturing the viewer's imagination.
There's a stiffness to the way the story unfolds, the jokes seem rather forced and, while Epic is entertaining in the main, it just doesn't quite hang together as a story.