Epic (3D)

What it's about:

During a visit with her eccentric father, teenager Mary Katherine (MK) suddenly finds herself entangled in a war between the fairy-like forest people and the evil forces of the Rot as the forest people's dying queen shrinks MK down to their size and charges her with protecting and delivering the birth pod of a new queen to her people and stopping the Rot from taking over the forest.

What we thought:

Much like The Croods before it, Epic was done no favours by a tremendously generic and unpromising trailer but with the added disadvantage of a title that is both grandiose and entirely non-descriptive. Unlike The Croods though, which turned out to be one of the year's most pleasant surprises, Epic never quite manages to transcend its trailer nor live up to its title.

That's not to say that latest animated kids feature by the team behind the Ice Age films and Rio is without its pleasures or that it won't work, in the short term at least, with younger audiences but perhaps a more fitting title would have been Middling or, more descriptively, Just Another Animated Movie.

Epic's basic plot may not in fact be "epic" and it's certainly not original as it plays out like a mixture of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Avatar/Pocahontas/FernGully and the latest incarnation of DC's Swamp Thing comics, but it is adequate enough and is certainly far better than the threadbare plots of the Ice Age films. If there is one standout  about the film though, it's that it has as its main character a strong, independent and likeable teenage girl (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) that not only makes the film equally fitting for girls as it is for boys, but gives little girls a genuinely worthwhile role model in the form of Mary Katherine.

Sadly, aside for some beautiful animation and a fairly funny talking snail voiced by the increasingly awesome Chris O'Dowd, there is little else that is true noteworthy about Epic. The basic plot may be OK but the way it unfolds isn't so much predictable – though it certainly is that as well – as it is plodding and unevenly paced. It's only just over 100 minutes but it actually feels quite a bit longer.

It may also advertise itself as a comedic action-adventure but is disappoints at all three. As an action adventure movie it's a very far cry from something like How To Train Your Dragon or even The Croods and most of the comedy falls pretty flat with only the aforementioned snail providing any half way decent laughs.

The biggest problem with the film though, and it is here that I think it's destined to be forgotten by its target audiences before it even hits DVD and Blu-Ray, is that its characters are so woefully underdeveloped and unmemorable. Mary Katherine is, as I mentioned, the clear exception to this but, again aside for that blasted talking snail, is given next to nothing to work against.

Her dad is a by-the-numbers absent minded genius and the various forest folk fit sink immediately into increasingly banal, preconfigured archetypes (benevolent queen, stern soldier, slightly rebellious but good hearted love interest, oafish comic relief). Most damningly, the main villain is incredibly bland, making no use whatsoever of Christoph Waltz's fantastic ability to be both menacing and incredibly funny at the same time.   

With school holidays rapidly approaching and without much else on at cinemas for young kids, Epic is ultimately a perfectly OK choice for a day at the movies with your kids but just because it's an acceptable way to kill two hours doesn't change the fact that, aside for its lovely animation, it simply doesn't hold a candle to the kind of fare that Pixar and Dreamworks tend to pump out on a regular basis.