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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February 15-18 Box Office Predictions: A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful Creatures, Escape from Planet Earth, Safe Haven

The new releases

A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard

Safe Haven

Safe Haven

Escape from Planet Earth

Escape from Planet Earth

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures

The four big releases this weekend are A Good Day to Die Hard, Beautiful CreaturesEscape from Planet Earth and Safe Haven.

Films similar to A Good Day to Die Hard often open to an average gross of $27.1 million, and that’s stellar for action films. The first Die Hard opened to the sound of $600, 000 at 21 theaters (but it went onto gross $83 million, domestically); the second to an opening weekend of $21.7 million; the third to an opening of $22.1 million. The fourth one opened to a franchise best $33.3 million. I believe this will beat the fourth’s earning, because everyone has been dying to hear “Yippee Ki-Yay, Motherf*cker!” since McLane last said it in 1995. Apparently in 2007, the damn MPAA didn’t want him saying it. The Die Hard franchise has typically had a summer opening, but I don’t think this film’s February opening will have any sort of affect, especially on Family day weekend. Because nothing says ‘family’ better than terrorists and John McLane.

Those who are still feeling romantic post-Valentine’s Day might just be running out to see the latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Safe Haven. Is it just me, or does this look like it could pretty good? I think The Lucky One was seriously one of the worst films of last year, but I am a sucker for the charm of The Notebook, and this and Notebook share some similarities. This is the eighth adaptation of Sparks’ works, and there is a collected $17.8 million average opening. This one would look stellar if it opens between Message in a Bottle‘s $16.7 million and The Lucky One‘s $22.5 million opening. It’ll probably lean more toward The Lucky One, though. The popularity of Hough is at an average opening of $13.9 million, and Duhamel is at an average opening of $37.3 million (but that average is mostly thanks to the three Transformers flicks).

If the new Die Hard proves to be too much of an adrenaline rush, or Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven is too sappy, one might just choose this teen romance with a hint of dark witch secrets. While this won’t be the young adult heavyweight any of the Twilight flicks were, this might do nearly as well as Warm Bodies‘ $20.3 million opening. It isn’t getting a ton of love from the critics, and the leading woman (Alice Englert, in her film debut) and man (Alden Ehrenreich, in his wide release debut) don’t have much star power at all. However, the others included in the cast (Jeremy Irons, Emmy Rossum, Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Thomas Mann) may attract a fine audience. This reminds me of last year’s Dark Shadows with its whole strange family vibe (that opened to $29.6 million) and the sort-of fantasy and atmosphere of The Spiderwick Chronicles (a film that opened to $19 million). Anyway, this is in solid shape if it opens between Red Riding Hood‘s $14 million and Water for Elephants‘ $16.8 million. It’ll probably do better than those, though.

This space adventure from the Weinstein Company sounds really lame to me, but visually appealing, and generally fun for the kids. While the Weinstein Company is a serious award-winning powerhouse, they haven’t fared well in the animation genre (they’ve given us the Hoodwinked films and that apparently god-awful Doogal). Though, kids still enjoy innocent old aliens in animation… But they don’t love them. Planet 51 opened to $12.2 million, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius opened to $13.8 million way back in 2001; Aliens in the Attic, $8 million; and Monsters vs. Aliens, $59.3 million. What I’m getting from that is, kids like to see both monsters and aliens in their movies. 2011’s family day weekend had Gnomeo and Juliet opening to $25 million. While this won’t gross anywhere near that, it will make most of its money on Monday; as this will be one of the only fairly popular, family-friendly films in theaters.

Here’s how I see the top 10:

TitlePrediction

1. A Good Day to Die Hard: $44, 500, 000
2. Identity Thief: $22, 400, 000
3. Safe Haven: $20, 000, 000
4. Beautiful Creatures: $18, 900, 000
5. Escape from Planet Earth: $14, 750, 000
6. Warm Bodies: $12, 500, 000
7. Side Effects: $8, 500, 000
8. Silver Linings Playbook: $7, 200, 000
9. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters: $4, 000, 000
10. Argo: $3, 500, 000