Honey I Shrunk The Kids meets The Borrowers in Blue Sky Studio’s latest animation adventure, Epic.
Mary Katherine, also known as MK (Amanda Seyfreid), moves in with her eccentric father (Jason Sudeikis) who’s convinced a community of tiny people live in the surrounding woods. When MK stumbles upon these miniature Leafmen and is shrunk to their minuscule proportions, she must help them battle the dark and destructive Boggans to keep the forest alive.
Epic is the second William Joyce adaptation in as many years - following last year’s wintry Rise Of The Guardians from DreamWorks. Yet, where Rise Of The Guardian’s crumbled under a plot overcrowded with missions and backstories as if primed for sequels, Epic remains neat, simple and self-contained.
Epic does, however, make use of a pretty standard animation formula. The polarised world of good guys and bad guys is taken for granted - no backstory here - yet is redeemed by great voice work from Django Unchained’s Oscar winner Christoph Waltz as Boggan leader, Mandrake. Stereotyped characters are also thick on the ground, including the rebellious teenager, Nod (Josh Hutcherson), who also acts as a predictable love interest. Even so, a lighter touch from Epic’s six strong writing team succeeds in giving us more sympathetic characterisation than the stroppy teenage mammoths of Blue Sky’s Ice Age: Continental Drift. A typical duo of funny sidekicks rounds off Epic’s ensemble, but some neat gags for Chris O’Dowd - as the snail who wants to become a Leafman - and his slug comrade, Mub (Aziz Ansari) keep this pairing just the right side of annoying.
Blue Sky Studios has come a long way since the simple white and blue landscapes of the first Ice Age movie back in 2002. This new world of Epic is packed with detail and vibrant reality. As the film opens on lush forest undergrowth blowing gently in the breeze, total immersion in this magical world is rapid and satisfying. Epic is a movie that’s easy to watch, packed with prettiness from Leafmen flying on the backs of hummingbirds to the beautiful, flowing, botanical-inspired costumes of the Queen. Epic’s visuals are equally transfixing when removed to the Boggan world where the lush greens of the forest rot into dismal, putrefying greys and browns at every glance.
The tiny scale of Epic’s civilisation lends itself nicely to wide landscape shots and director Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots) frequently plays on this, giving us some grand battle scenes reminiscent of those in The Hobbit’s underground goblin kingdom. Here Wedge persistently succeeds in bombarding his audience with a level of detail that is surprising and spellbinding.
Epic’s simple story and amusing, sidekick duo will appeal to young audiences, leaving the grown ups to marvel at the visual magnificence of its landscapes. A play-it-safe script leaves this enjoyable animation a little short on originality - a few more risks and Epic might just have lived up to its name.
Running Time: 102 minutes