Although certainly not without its shortcomings, Epic (2013) is an exciting and beautifully animated picture that provides an often rewarding bit of entertainment for viewers of all ages. The film tells the story of Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), or M.K., who reluctantly moves in with her estranged father after her mother’s death. Unfortunately, things are worse than she could have possibly imagined, for she arrives to find her father completely absorbed in a quest to prove the existence of tiny people that live in the forest and ride atop hummingbirds: the Leafmen. His complete absorption in this endeavor quickly distances the pair more than they already had been and M.K. sets out on her own… only to find herself unexpectedly shrunk to Leafman size and charged with saving the world.
The trajectory of the narrative is ultimately highly predictable and some of the writing– particular the comedic writing– falls flat. But the charm of Epic lies in the minutiae of the world in which it’s set. M.K.’s father’s home is rotting away around him and yet it’s filled with zany high-tech gadgetry, animals such as mice that are mostly harmless to normal-sized humans become deadly threats to the two-inch-tall M.K., and the villainous Boggins don animal bones as armor in battle. In these ways, Epic is a surprisingly visually spectacular picture given that its setting is limited to a single house and a swath of the surrounding woodland.
The writing, however, is often merely passable, providing us with the bare minimum of information and dialogue necessary to get us from point A to point B. What’s more, the writing often fails to deliver on humor, especially when the comic relief slug and snail characters are on screen. Apart from Mub the slug’s (Aziz Ansari) bit about Leafman Nod’s (Josh Hutcherson) flat face, I can’t say as they made me laugh once. That said, M.K.’s three-legged, one-eyed dog is always funny, and her father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), too is often good for a laugh. I was also pleasantly surprised that the writers (of which there were five, mind you) resisted the urge to play up the doomed romance of M.K. and Nod. Although certainly present, the inevitability of their parting relegates their romance to subtext, which is far more interesting anyway and saves us an additional 5-10 minutes of superfluous running time. What’s more, in addition to the cast members previously listed here, Epic features terrific voice work from Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz (as the scene-chewing villain, I might add), and Beyoncé Knowles among many, many other notables.
Apart from being fairly predictable in both its narrative and dialogue (and let’s face it, these are minor offenses where most family films are concerned), Epic has plenty of action and eye candy and just enough intelligence in the scripting to please pretty much every member of the family. Epic is now available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. By way of special features, the Blu-ray/DVD combo packs include an introduction from Mub and Grub, the slug and snail; educational featurettes about the forest creatures that inspired the film, the benefits of rotting, camouflage, and how your life would be different at two inches tall; a behind-the-scenes featurette; an Epic coloring app for iOS and Android devices; as well as the perfunctory theatrical trailer.