Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Chris Wedge
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles, Colin Farrell
(PG, 104 min.)
Though it never really lives up to its title, this sweet and safe fantasy will keep your little ones in their seats, but that’s about it. It touches on all the themes in the animation hall of fame, and therein lies the problem. It touches upon the themes instead of exploring them.
We have your
Lovely princess about to name her heir
Her shy and handsome admirer
The rebellious young recruit
A Lonely adolescent
Her estranged father, absorbed in his work
Comic family dog, a three-legged rotund ball of fur
Battle between the forces of good and evil
Mary Katherine, of M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) as she now wants to be called, is moving back with her loopy scientist father now that her mother has passed away. Her mother could not live with his delusional theory of a forest filled with almost invisible creatures, and as M.K. trips over the all the crazy gadgets littering his home, she sees why.
Of course, we are not too surprised when she stumbles into this “delusional” world, and inadvertently becomes part of the pint-sized brigade of leaf warriors trying to save the forest from the Boggans who are set to destroy it. While we are swept up into the adventure, it is all forward momentum and little resonates afterward.
Certainly, the Peanut Gallery enjoyed our cinematic adventure, even without the pricey 3 D experience. While they loved the comic characters and the Forest Queen, I doubt the film will wear out the DVD player in the same way other animated movies have.
One reason parents and grandparents have been willing to sit happily through endless home viewings of such classics as Finding Nemo, Toy story, or The Lion King, is the depth of the ideas that surround the surface adventure.
Marlin, Nemo’s dad, captures the neurotic parent in us all as he tries to shield his little clownfish from any danger. We are laughing at ourselves as much as Marlin, as he bends over backwards remove all danger as well as adventure from his son’s life. Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) as M.K.’s father, is content to amuse with mostly physical humor, as he trips over his self-made landmine of equipment in the living room.
Epic’s slug and snail vaudeville act of Mub (Aziz Ansari) and Grub(Chris O’Dowd) depends on the same physical humor, their protruding eyes and bulging bellies the fodder of most of their jokes. There is none of the satirical comment that we had in the self-styled vegan sharks in Finding Nemo.
Nor do we have the almost Shakespearean malcontent motivating our villains as we did in The Lion King’s Scar. Mandrake, Epic’s forest plunderer, gives us no reason for his dark destruction; it’s almost a job description.
Neither do we have the subtle take down of ego-centric would-be heroes that we had in the perfect king of bombast, Buzz Lightyear. Both Ronin, head of the Leafmen, and his rebellious prodigy, Nod, are primarily stalwart and earnest. Yes, Queen Tara (Beyonce) teases Ronin for being too serious, but it is just a passing barb soon swept away in the quick paced action.
But just as you wouldn’t turn down a hot fudge sundae because it is not Crème Brulee, you should still enjoy this sweet confection. Summer is, after all, the time for simple pleasures.
And speaking of Ice Cream Sundaes, why not make yours forest green. It’s really quite delicious if you follow Martha Stewart’s recipe for a Pistachio Sundae.