Review: Animated 'Epic' feels familiar, but manages to bloom

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Considering the lack of original ideas in Hollywood these days, "Epic" is a pretty gutsy thing to be calling your movie, especially when it feels like other several other films.

At least in the case of this new animated adventure by "Ice Age" director Chris Wedge, "Epic" tries to create a new mythology instead of relying on old fairy tales. It's ambitious undertaking that works on some levels, but it's hardly groundbreaking.

Amanda Seyfried voices the lead role of Mary Katherine, an independent teen girl who, after the death of her mother, comes back to live with her estranged, goofball scientist father, Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), in a house nestled in the woods. The bond between Mary Katherine and her dad is pretty shaky, since Bomba's obsession with what he believes is a tiny species living in the forest drove the girl and her mother away years before.

Much to her amazement, Mary Katherine finds out in stroll in the woods that her father's suspicions were true, but only after she is magically shrunk when the Queen (Beyonce Knowles) of a tiny species known as the Leafmen transfers her power to a mystical flower bud.

Holding the fate of the forest in her hands, Mary Katherine is thrown into an adventure including Leafman's leader, Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), a teen would-be Leafman who is reluctant to embrace his destiny as a warrior and protector of the forest. Whatever differences they have, they must all band together in order to fight Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) -- the evil leader of a decaying species known as the Boggans -- who wants to seize the bud before it can fully bloom in order to turn the leafy-green surroundings into dead environ of doom and gloom.

See the trailer for "Epic" below.

Bright, bold and luminescent at times, there's no question that "Epic" has spectacular visuals, and the rich surroundings are perfectly juxtaposed against Mandrake's rotting, colorless world. Ultimately, the film is a cautionary tale about the preservation of nature, but the good thing is it doesn't feel preachy, unlike the equally colorful but laborious adaptation of Dr. Seuss' "The Lorax" in 2012.

But where it differs from some films, "Epic" can't help but beg the comparison to several others. Populated with a variety of human and critter characters, "Epic" feels like a mixture between "A Bugs Life" and the live-action family adventure "The Spiderwick Chronicles," sprinkled with the pixie dust and characters that make up Walt Disney's direct-to-DVD "Tinker Bell"movie series.

The similarities aren't entirely damaging to "Epic," though. The narrative spreads itself out a bit, as in between the battle between good and evil there's a nice story of a father and daughter coming to terms over a past rift; and yes, the requisite budding romance between the male and female lead, which thankfully steers away from being too sappy.

The voice cast mostly fits the bill, especially Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari as a wise-cracking slug and snail, respectively. Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler turns in an amusing cameo (the dude is so animated in real life, that it made sense to cast him) as a magical caterpillar named Nim Galoo, who even belts out a tune at one point.

While animated films are at their best when they appeal to both kids and adults, "Epic" mainly works for younger audiences -- although the antics of Mandrake and his band of marauders may be too intense at times for the youngest of tots.

"Epic," rated PG, 3 stars out of 4.

Colin Covert of the Star Tribune gives the film 3.5 stars, calling it "grandly conceived," and says it uses its "'Avatar'-worthy fantasy visuals, action and romance, to a stellar payoff."

Chris Hewitt of the Pioneer Press, on the other hand, calls "Epic" an "epic failure" in his 1 star review. He says he admires "the animated comedy's attempt to create a new mythology, rather than relying on existing characters or classic tales, but it is a dull and confusing mythology."

Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11” and WCCO Radio. As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.

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