Of all the many words that have long since had their original meaning mangled beyond the point of resignation by the ADHD-driven 21st century culture, perhaps none have been more mishandled than the word “epic.” With epic being applied to everything and anything, ranging from cats to fails, Epic the film is actually a good commentary on how watered-down the term has become. All the pieces are there. Epicis certainly trying its best, and it hits all the right formulaic notes: the castle is made of cardboard, the swords are toilet paper tubes, the wizard is a fake, and you can’t help but feel that you’ve seen this all before. Then again this is just a kid’s movie, and it could feel new and perhaps “epic” to a generation that didn’t grow up with Ferngully, Thumbelina, Captain Planet, The Lord Of The Rings, Arthur and the Invisibles and Star Wars Episode I (the lucky bastards). But there’s painful little payoff for anyone else.
Epic tells the story of Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) who moves to the countryside for a final attempt to bound with her eccentric, distant father (Jason Sudeikis), whose obsession with proving fairies exist cost him his career and pushed the family away. Frustrated by her inability to get through to him, she storms off into the forests and finds out that not only was everything her father believed true, but that the world he firmly believed in is on the brink of war. When the Queen of the Forest (Beyonce Knowles), is killed by a wicked race of troll, she entrusts Mary with the fate of her heir and the future of the forest.
It’s difficult to be too hard on Epic, as many things are weak about it. From its tired “good vs. evil/save the forest” plot to its bare-bone characters that are more archetypes then fleshed out people (strong willed teenaged girl, over-used celebrity comedy relief brought to you by Aziz Ansari), can all be excused by the fact that it’s clearly meant for a younger crowd. That’s not to say there aren’t any interesting ideas here. While the “forest” setting isn’t anything new, it’s used in a unique way by introducing some generally clever nuances. The character designs are simply gorgeous, and the attention invested in the artwork really gives the film a unique feel. And for what little character depth there is, the voice cast does a much better job than what you’d expect from a celebrity-heavy roster, breathing some much needed life into these beautiful but bland characters. Beyonce Knowles, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Steven Tyler and Christopher Waltz (whose villainous Lord Mandrake easily steals the show) turn in surprisingly decent performances.
Epic is a perfectly inoffensive and even enjoyable movie that’s only crime is perpetuating further misuse of the word “epic.” And to be fair, that’s only relevant to a crowd old enough to be aware of half the clichés it relies on.