Salisbury Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

An 'Epic' disappointment

Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

The animated family feature movie,"Epic," is beautiful, especially in the 3D format in which it was seen for this review.

Unfortunately, "Epic" lacks a cohesive storyline, the clever dialogue we've grown accustomed to in animated features and memorable animated characters.

That's not good. The art form is, after all, about character animation.

Moreover, the concept for "Epic" is ill-conceived.

Much of the action takes place in a dark forest. Other scenes are in caves and the interior of a castle. The good guys, the Leaf Men, are, naturally enough, attired in leafy green. The bad guys, named the Boggans, are in shades of gray.

The 3D process tends to darken scenes. Why do film-makers make choices that do not best serve the medium and the movie-goer?

"Epic" provides fascinating glimpses into the world of "the little people," or sprites, fairies and tiny mythical animals of legend and imagination, mixed with actual denizens of the forest such as birds, toads, slugs and the like.

I wanted to like "Epic" more than I did.

That's because the lead character, the protagonist, Mary Katherine, nicknamed M.K., is voiced by Allentown native Amanda Seyfried, fresh off her red-carpet walk and onstage performance for "Les Miserables" during this year's Oscars' telecast.

Seyfried is in fine voice. However, the character she voices resembles Taylor Swift, with a slimmer face than that of Seyfried, voted as having one of the "Most Beautiful Famous Faces" for six consecutive years on the list of "The Annual Independent Critics List of the 100 Most Beautiful Famous Faces From Around the World."

The other lead characters in "Epic" are as generic as the film's title. Ronin (voiced by Colin Farrell), the romantic interest opposite M.K., looks like your standard-issue Disney prince.

Beyonce Knowles (Queen Tara) is given a non African-American visage.

Several characters have the potential for development, including Mub the slug (voiced by Aziz Ansari) and Bufo the Toad (Pitbull).

The voice of Christoph Waltz (Mandrake), leader of the Boggans, who are out to destroy the forest, is the most compelling.

The voice talent includes Jason Sudeikis (Bomba), as M.K.'s father, and rock group Aerosmith's Steven Tyler (Nim Galuu), as a caterpillar character similar to that in "Alice in Wonderland."

Few of the characters is given enough screen time for development. The plot, such as it is, about protecting the forest, is convoluted at best, incomprehensible at worst.

The film may be enjoyed by children. However, I was fixating not on the green on the 3D screen, but rather the green in the "Exit" sign.

Even the usually impressive Danny Elfman fails to score with the film's original music.

The only thing epic about the "Epic" screenplay is the number of writers who worked on it.

Director Chris Wedge ("Robots," 2005; "Ice Age," 2002) works from a screenplay by James V. Hart ("Sahara," "Contact," "Muppet Treasure Island" screenplays), Daniel Shere ("We Are Family"), Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember ("Get Smart," "Failure to Launch") and William Joyce from a story by Wedge, Hart and Joyce, on whose book, "The Leaf Men," the film is based.

"Epic" has a good pedigree. It seems the prime mover behind "Epic" is Joyce, whose film, "Rise of the Guardians" (2012) was based on his "The Guardians of Childhood." Joyce developed characters for "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life." Joyce won a 2012 Animated Short Oscar for "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore."

Since Joyce is a writer, executive producer and production designer on "Epic," it's not as if someone hijacked the material. "Epic" is the film the film-makers wanted to make.

And that's what especially makes "Epic" an epic disappointment.

"Epic": MPAA Rated PG (Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children) for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Family, Fantasy; Run time: 1 hour, 32 minutes; Distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Beyonce Knowles sings "Rise Up," a song she co-wrote, during the "Epic" end credits, one of the film's more interesting aspects, with a lengthy pan of sketches, pencils, and paraphernalia of a botanist.

Box Office, May 31: "Fast & Furious 6" beat the challengers, No. 1 for two weeks, $34.5 million, $170 million. "Now You See Me" opened at No. 2, $28.1 million. "After Earth" opened at No. 3, $27 million.

4. "Star Trek: Into Darkness," $16.4 million; $181 million, three weeks; 5." Epic," $16.4 million, $65.2 million, two weeks; 6. "The Hangover Part III," $15.9 million, $88.1 million, two weeks; 7. "Iron Man 3," $8 million, $385 million, five weeks; 8. "The Great Gatsby," $6.2 million, $128 million. four weeks; "Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani," $1.6 million, opening; 10. "Mud," $1.2 million, $16.9 million, six weeks

Box Office, May 24: "Fast & Furious 6" put the pedal to the mettle Memorial Day weekend, opening at No. 1, with $97.3 million. "The Hangover Part III" opened at No. 2, $41.6 million. "Star Trek: Into Darkness" dropped from No. 1 to No. 3, $37.2 million, $146.1 million, two weeks. "Epic" opened at No. 4, $33.5 million.

5. "Iron Man 3," $19.3 million, $367.4, four weeks; 6. "The Great Gatsby," $13.5 million, $114.2 million, three weeks; 7. "Mud," $1.9 million, $14.5 million, five weeks; 8. "42," $1.2 million, $91 million, seven weeks; 9. "The Croods," $1.2 million, $179.2 million, 10 weeks; 10. "Oblivion," $869,990, $87.3 million, six weeks

Unreel, June 7:

"The Internship," PG-13: Google this plot: Two salesmen get an internship at Google. Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne and John Goodman star in the comedy.

"The Purge," R: Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey star in the sci-fi thriller about a family held hostage.

"Much Ado About Nothing," PG-13: Director Josh Whedon puts Shakespeare's comedy in a modern setting.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@