Fresh off the presses and ready to catch all the cash you can throw at it this half term is Disney’s ‘Epic’…….what, wait it’s not Disney; it’s a DreamWorks film?? Sorry DreamWorks ‘Epic’ which feels so much like a Disney movie I’m wondering if the DreamWorks magic has finally worn off and they have been reduced to producing movies that follow the tired and boring formula that Disney was recently saved from by Pixar.
Epic is about a young girl called M.K who after the death of her mother goes to live with her eccentric scientist father, who’s thrown away his career and relationship with his wife and daughter to pursue his belief that there is an advanced civilization of tiny people living in the forest. So he spends his entire time roaming the land wearing Wayne Szalinski’s (Honey I Shrunk the Kids 1989) magnifying helmet.
Naturally he is correct. Right under his nose and just out of sight there is a war going on between the forces of good and evil. The powers of growth and putrification, a little like fern gully only the putrification is a natural force as pollution is no longer a hot topic.
Once every 100 years queen of the forest chooses a successor to continue the life of the land and to hold off the Rot, which is embodied by the Boggins; a race of goblin like creatures that are led by the evil king Mandrake. Who looks remarkably like Hades from Disney’s Hercules minus the awesomeness that is James Woods.
While this is going on M.K gives up on refreshing her relationship with her father leaving him a note telling him as much, she inadvertently lets her fathers dog escape and has to chase him through the woods, just as the Boggins have made their big push to stop a ceremony designed to choose the new queen. M.K stumbles upon the mortally wounded queen Tara who entrusts her with the pod that contains the new queen and shrinks her down to miniature, so she can adventure and caper with the rest of the good woodland folk; in this case the heroic leafmen, and save the day, naturally.
I know that this is a children’s film and I shouldn’t judge it too harshly but I have come to expect more from DreamWorks, they have consecutively shown themselves to be the intelligent alternative to Disney, but now they seem to be loosing their edge. I can only describe ‘Epic’ as being Disneyish, it’s ruled by sentimentality, and has a high schmaltz factor. We have families coming together, lost love, tragedy, and growing to become a better person. Gone is the knowing sense of humour, the post modern nods (bar one scene involving a killer mouse) and slightly risky humour such as Shrek’s (2001) Gingerbread Man Rambo Torture scene. Instead we get a comedy ghetto slug and an Irish snail, whose capering is akin to that of Jar Jar Binks in its level of annoyance. Oh and Steven Tyler playing Mel Brooks as a caterpillar, which totally threw me.
On another note I’m still trying to figure out if the queen was supposed to be black? She has a dark skin tone and Beyonce’s voice but features wise; she looks Caucasian. Also it’s probably fair to point out that she is the only dark skinned character in the entire film; it seems a little odd. I guess no matter what Beyonce does people can’t stop themselves from turning her white (Seriously Google it, they love to Photoshop that girls skin colour).
The action sequences are ok we get an enjoyable bird racing sequence that although short seems to have been directly influenced by the pod race in The Phantom Menace, albeit with a toad replacing Jabba as the races corrupt organiser. ‘Epic’ moves at a fair pace and the action sequences are pretty good to the point that during one of the battles when all the leafmen are pointing their boys at the enemy I was waiting for someone to say ‘on my word unleash hell’ sadly this doesn’t happen. I guess you gotta stay kid friendly.
One problem with this film is that there is a fair amount of back tracking on the narrative with M.K visiting her father’s house twice while in shrunken form, and the queens’ death being played twice. It seems a little lazy as these events happen fairly close to each other.
Ultimately though I will say despite my gripes ‘Epic’ does what it’s supposed to do. There where plenty of giggles ad laughs coming from the assorted children that were in the cinema, although there was also a few unhappy children at some of the scarier moments. And it looks stunning the water and some of the luminance effects where breathtaking to see, but the pretty pictures didn’t hide the lacklustre story. I would definitely say this one is mainly for the kids.
If you are one of those parents concerned about the effects of violence upon a small mind then I’d say yes this is violent albeit mildly. Maybe you should take them to see something a little softer in tone, and more comedy based, such as the excellent Ice Age films.
As a last point I have to give this film honourable mention for actually managing to squeeze in an Apple product; something I’ve been noticing more and more, yet this is the first time I’ve seen an Ipod in an animated feature.