Epic (2013)

Epic

Release Date: May 24, 2013

Director: Chris Wedge

Stars (voices): Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell

Runtime: 102 min

Blue Sky Studios is best known for their Ice Age movies. Chris Wedge, co-director of that franchise, goes solo with Epic, the third animated movie of 2013 (after Escape from Planet Earth and The Croods). It follows the female protoganist, M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who is forced to re-locate to the home of her estranged father, Professor Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), after her mother’s death. Her father is an eccentric character, as he is convinced there are tiny people living out in the woods.

It turns out, there is. But it’s a little more complex than that. It’s a challenge of good and evil of the Leaf Men, who, by protecting the queen (voiced by Beyoncé Knowles), preserve the life of the forest; but the evil Boggans threaten them with powers of decay. Today is the day Queen Tara must pick the pod to be the heir to her throne. M.K. is mixed up with this world when she is turned from a stomper (the Leaf Men term of big humans) to a little miniature human. She must team up with a crew to help keep the pod away from the malevolent leader of the Boggans, Mandrake (voiced by Christoph Waltz), in order to save their world, and ours.

It must be expected that a movie called Epic really won’t be so damn epic. It turns out to be a good, light-hearted animated flick that teaches kids about teamwork and that, even if you feel alone, you truly aren’t. It’s a nice message, and the way the filmmakers portray it is imaginative and admirable. The animation has a great, human look and feel to it. It might as well be an animated version of The Borrowers, just with very mild action sequences, in a very fun, but forgettable story.

It’s an old-fashioned, good vs. the forces of evil, predictable and formulaic ride. The imaginative action sequences are fun and have intensity present. There’s a lot of room for imagination at play, but there are only a few notable characters. The main Boggan, Mandrake, is often psychotic and threatening for a children’s movie, but nothing that will have kiddies waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares. He has some memorable lines, but he’s more underwhelming than anyone could believe a character portrayed by Christoph Waltz could ever be.

Nod (Josh Hutcherson) is a misfit Leaf Man who needs to learn about teamwork, and the primary Leaf Man, Ronin (Colin Farrell), is precisely the man to teach it to him. He’s a no-nonsense character, and Queen Tara desperately wants to see his smiling face. She requests this in a truly dull fashion. I don’t have much praise to hand out to Knowles, Hutchison, Seyfried or really even Farrell, but I don’t have anything to fault them for, either. They just don’t stand out so well. Many of the characters have good lines, but you’ll forget their names (most notably Bomba, Bufo, and M.K.) as soon as you walk out of the theatre.

There are four characters whose names and presences no one will forget anytime soon. Nim Guluu is the “rock-star” information keeper of the miniature world, appropriately voiced by rock star Steven Tyler. There’s also a silly, three-legged dog who mostly just runs in circles. The laid-back slug called Mub (Aziz Ansari) and his uptight snail associate, Grub (Chris O’Dowd), are the true scene-stealers of the movie. They’re hilarious in the way Mub thinks he has a chance with M.K., and how Grub is an aspiring Leaf Man. (Let that irony sink in for a second.) They’re never annoying, always funny, and the movie is at its most lively when they’re on-screen. Who thought slimy little things could be so appealing?

Epic isn’t quite, y’know, epic, but it’s a predictable and funny ride that is a blast once it really gets going. For the most part, it’s about as memorable as its generic title. The great animation and hilarious and slimy scene-stealers make this memorable, and something worth watching twice. Christoph Waltz, to his best ability, rocks his role and he shines when Mandrake is at his most psychotic. You care for the protagonists, because no one wants to see a forest rot to the ground, right?

74/100

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This Is 40 (2012)

This is 40This is 40

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Director: Judd Apatow

Stars: Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Megan Fox

Runtime: 134 min

Tagline: The sort-of sequel to ‘Knocked Up’

What a great step up from 2009’s Funny People.

It may not be the best feature for a family movie day this holiday season, but it’s a great choice of comedy to see with a few buddies. It’s certainly a better choice than The Guilt Trip. It’s good enough to see with your mother, that is if you’re mature enough to sit through a sex scene or some other inappropriate content.

This follows the relationship of Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) five years after the events of Knocked Up (don’t worry folks, Katherine Heigl isn’t in this). As expected, their relationship is still facing a lot of issues. Their two daughters don’t enjoy each other’s company and Pete’s father Larry (Albert Brooks) is always asking for money while they’re facing some financial troubles themselves. Pete’s band (Graham Parker) for the record label isn’t selling that well, and the sexy employee (Desi, portrayed by Megan Fox) is probably stealing from them. Will the pretty couple overcome their problems and stick together through thick and thin?

Probably. It’s a Judd Apatow flick, and it’s around the holiday season, so it has to be feel-good. It usually is, albeit numerous conflict. Though, it’s Apatow and he has the fine ability to write in a stellar amount of humour to their long list of issues. It is a comedy, right?

While it is hilarious through and through, the issues that offer voids in their relationship are sometimes loud and obnoxious. There’s hardly a second where either Pete and Debbie aren’t wanting to bite off each other’s heads or their oldest daughter, Sadie (Maude Apatow), isn’t telling to the youngest daughter Charlotte (Iris Apatow) to take a hike. Preferably on Mt. Everest. The conflicts are vast – but the characters are great and they’re brought to life with each charming comedic presence. There has to be conflict, though, as this is an honest observation of what being a parent is all about.

The conflict between the two daughters is mainly irritating, but it doesn’t mean it gets in the way of enjoyment. At least, that much. It’s sadder than anything. Sadie is just going through those tough teenage years and she doesn’t have the time for a younger sister always bothering her. Charlotte just wants a little attention and she’s adorable, so she should just give it to her. Unfortunately, each sibling knows how hard that has the tendency to be.

It’s nice to watch Pete and Debbie try to overcome their differences because it’s a ride that doesn’t overstay its welcome, thanks to the real charm of the cast and the great incorporation of large and hearty laughs. This feature is around for the right time of season because Christmas is all about coming together as a family.

Pete and Debbie try their hardest as parents, but they’re not perfect. They also blame some of their troubles on their own parents for being such screw-ups. Pete’s pretty upset by his father for making him lend him $80, 000 over a few years – and Debbie’s upset with her own because he, Ollie (John Lithgow), is hardly there for her. This conflict is attacked during Pete’s big 40th birthday celebration. There, the great Jason Segel and Chris O’Dowd fight over the sexy Megan Fox.

Those supporting characters are awesome, but the real scene-stealer is the great Melissa McCarthy, playing a potty-mouthed and angry mother who goes a little crazy after Pete and Debbie offend her and her son.

While this is driven by pure and fresh comedy, the not-so subtle conflicts make it feel a bit too over-dramatic in areas. Though, Apatow does have to get the point across somehow. The film is a perfect analysis of how a family should try to overcome their differences and stick together, in this modern society that has really high divorce rates. Oh, and get through it during a mid-life crisis, especially. The message does get across finely with many laughs and conflict, and an advertisement or two for iPhones, other apple products, and TV’s Lost. It’s entertaining through and through, and your face may just hurt a little in more than one scene. It’s no Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying little sort-of sequel. It finishes as the third best comedy of the year, just behind Ted and the best of the year, 21 Jump Street.

80/100