Epic is the latest 3D CGI romp from Blue Sky Studios: the team behind the lavish and lucrative Rio and Ice Age films. Directed by Blue Sky co-founder, Chris Wedge, Epic tells the story of a young teenager named M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), who is forced to move in with her estranged, crackpot father, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) following the death of her mother. The relationship is strained by Bomba's obsession with an unseen race of tiny people who live in the woods. After M.K. loses patience with her father's devotion to his work, she wonders into the forest only to be inadvertently shrunk down into the world of the insect-like people and handed the heart of the forest by a dying queen (Beonycé). Suddenly aware that her father was right, she embarks on a journey with the mysterious Leafmen leader Ronin (Colin Farrell) and his irksome sidekick Nod, to save the forest from the evil Boggans and find a way of returning home. Quite why the Boggans want to destroy the forest is not entirely clear, but the nebulous motivation of its antagonists is the least of Epic's problems.
There's no denying that Epic looks stunning; with beautiful, lush, green landscapes; a multitude of well-rendered animals and insects; and an impressively immersive world comparable to that of Avatar. But, like James Cameron's 3D game changer, Epic relies too heavily on aesthetics and not nearly enough on character. Thankfully, our lead, the heroic teenager M.K, is likable and well-drawn, but almost every other character she meets on her journey is bland, generic and humourless. The comic relief is provided in the form of a slug and snail double act voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd, as well as a scene-stealing three-legged pug. The jokes arrive with varying degrees of success, but they are always welcome as the rest of the film takes itself incredibly seriously.
The voice cast boasts and array of talent that is not entirely capitalised upon, but Christoph Waltz provides pantomime menace as the sinister Boggan leader, Mandrake. There are also vocal turns from Steven Tyler, Josh Hutcherson and Judah Friedlander, but you could be forgiven for not picking up on them. The problems arise in the casting of Farrell and Beyoncé. Farrell uses his native Irish accent for Ronin, the head Leafman and dullest inhabitant of the forest, whose all-American, John Wayne-Clint Eastwood-style features are at odds with his's Celtic lilt. It is easy to see why Beyoncé was chosen as the Queen of the forest; she's almost universally accepted as the most beautiful woman on the Earth, but her sassy performance is more 'mother f**ker' than 'Mother Earth'.
Epic feels long, even at 100 minutes, and the trajectory of the plot is clear from the opening scene. There are some exciting chase sequences, and the 3D is surprisingly impressive, but this is probably one for the under 8s. Like the supermodel that campaigns for the rainforest, Epic is beautiful and well intentioned, but ultimately hollow and slightly dull. Younger audience members are likely to enjoy it, but there is little for Mum and Dad in this feral, family frolic.