EpiccoverGrade:  B
Entire family:  Yes
2013, 102 min., Color
Rated PG for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language
Twentieth Century Fox Animation
Aspect ratio:  2.40:1
Featured audio:  DTS-HD MA 7.1
Bonus features:  C-
Includes:  Blu-ray, DVD, DigitalHD Copy

The plot of Epic will strike older family members as yet another mythic kingdom structure, where a world (like Narnia, for example) is dependent upon the balance between good and evil, or at least evil being kept in check. When evil surges and suddenly poses a more urgent threat to the future of all life, hope lies in a chosen one or a youngling or budding new emblem of goodness that needs to be protected until such time as the Good One can assume his/her/its rightful position, and balance (or at least the illusion of it) can be restored.

After her mother passes away, teen Mary-Kate (Amanda Seyfried) comes to live with her eccentric and estranged father, Prof. Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), whose singleminded drive to prove the existence of miniature forest warriors created a distance between him and his family. But after M.K., as she prefers to be called, is magically miniaturized, she learns her father was right all along—that the Leaf Men he sought really do exist, and they ride hummingbirds as they battle the forces of evil in a forest nearby the professor’s Victorian house.

Epic was inspired by a children’s book intended for ages 3-8—The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs, by William Joyce—but many scenes also evoke Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. The plot is just good enough to get by, and the energy level and forward movement are sufficient to hold even the most easily distracted child’s attention. But the film’s chief strength lies in its depiction of a new and exotic world and appreciating how Fox animators envisioned and created such a world.

Epic is epically gorgeous in its art design and animation.  

More than a few times one of us watching together remarked how extraordinary a scene was, whether it was a door creaking open to an old Victorian house and we see the natural light spilling inside, or a babbling brook that makes you conscious of the advances animators have made in rendering water over the years. Like a comedy where plot exists just to string the jokes together, Epic relies on that tried-and-true fantasy plot to get us from scene to scene. CGI animators still haven’t found a way to make faces look anything but doll-like, but everything else looks terrific as can be. The battle scenes, along with a horde of bats swirling and blocking out the moon, are especially strong.

EpicscreenThe other “pop out” characters in this energetic animated feature are a young Leaf Man whose heart just isn’t in it (Josh Hutcherson as Nod), which angers his superior, Ronin (Colin Farrell), who promised the boy’s late father that he’d see to his training. The comic relief comes from a snail named Grub (Chris O’Dowd) and his goofy companion, Mub the slug (Aziz Ansari). Then there’s a frog character named Bufo (Pitbull) that will remind audiences of the villain in Flushed Away, and a hip (and overly familiar) glowworm named Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler) who gets in a song during the movie—something even Beyoncé (who gives voice to Queen Tara) didn’t get to do. She sings for the closing credits.

By the time it’s all said (and sung) and done, Epic holds its own as an animated feature chiefly on the strength of its art design and animation, along with a plot that’s just good enough and an energy level that never loses momentum.