Amanda Seyfried as M.K.
Josh Hutcherson as Nod
Colin Farrell as Ronin
Beyoncé Knowles as Queen Tara
Christoph Waltz as Mandrake
Aziz Ansari as Mub
Chris O’Dowd as Grub
Pitbull as Bufo
Steven Tyler as Nim Galuu
Jason Sudeikis as Professor Bomba
Man I loved this movie when it was called “Ferngully.”
Actually, that’s not true. No one liked “Ferngully.” Which is probably why no one cared when prolific animator/illustrator William Joyce (“Robots,” “Rise of the Guardians”) developed an extremely similar plot for his children’s book “The Leaf Men,” the basis of 20th Century Fox’s new film “Epic.”
After her mother dies, young M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) goes out to the woods somewhere to live with her estranged father (Jason Sudeikis). Estranged because he has spent his life following a theory that a society of tiny individuals lives in the forest keeping the world’s environment in balance, instead of being a family man.
So imagine her surprise which she finds out he was completely right after she is shrunk down and finds herself in the middle of a pitched battle between the valiant Leaf Men, protectors of the forest, and the forces of decay as incarnated by the vile Boggins.
Yes, it is another entry in the classic hero’s journey, coming-of-age mold for your childhood set, but as these things go, “Epic” is closer to the charming edge of the spectrum.
It helps that instead of having your typical farm boy who meets a disguised princess we actually get two heroes to follow – M.K. herself (giving us a rare empowered female lead for one of these) and Leaf Man in training Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a daredevil bird rider who just wants to have fun and not be bothered with responsibility.
M.K. finds herself the unlikely guardian of the lone seedpod which will soon bloom and determine if the forest will stay green or wither and decay.
This being one of ‘those’ kind of adventure films, they are naturally accompanied by a typical cast of characters, like the comic relief duo of Mub (Aziz Ansari) and Grub (Chris O’Dowd) who raised the pod and try to bring off most of the film’s comedy. Try being the operative word.
They’re also accompanied by the requisite older warrior – Ronin (Collin Farrel), stern leader of the Leaf Men. Actually, Farrel is probably the best thing about the film, keeping a sense of humor and melancholy that comes through his dialogue as he deals with unrequited love even while trying to save the forest.
Most of the characters, in fact, are given a little bit more dimension than normal for one of these – even Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), leader of the boggins, who has a very personal stake in defeating the heroes after his son is killed in a skirmish.
Director Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) has also come a long way as an animator from Blue Sky Studios’ early efforts and it shows in some intricately designed sequences, particularly the bird riding ones.
Sure there’s not much original here, that’s sort of to be expected with these type of youth-oriented adventure films. But it’s well done, with better than normal characterization and some occasionally excellent voice acting with little phoned in. And that can’t always be expected. Like a dandelion thistle, “Epic” is light and fluffy and quickly lost in the breeze.