Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ambitious Animation

Epic       Final Cut Score: 92%

Few things are as unabashedly riotous as a CGI critter taking a shot to the groin. Like Tom and Jerry before him, the squirrel/rat hybrid "Scrat" from the Ice Age franchise is Exhibit A in maximizing guffaws from cartoonish bodily abuse.

But for those of you who demand a bit more substance from your animated offerings comes another of Blue Sky's creations, Epic — about as adventurously ambitious as the genre gets.

Reconciling with her far-out father in his smack-dab-in-the-midst-of-the-backwoods abode following the passing of her mother, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) – MK for short – stumbles upon her daddy's life's obsession: a colony of itty-bitty people tasked with keeping the entire ecosystem in check.

However it's not just the "Leafmen" who live amongst the trees, every living organism is outfitted with a face, disseminating their dire message: Screwing with the environment's harmonic flow isn't so swell for their world or ours.

MK ends up getting Honey, I Shrunk the Kids'd as her miniature self is left holding the lily bulb responsible for the forest's survival after the passing of the Beyonce-voiced, mini-Mother Nature, Queen Tara.

Journeying across the coppice to plant the bulb in the precise spot needed to keep safe both the forest and the very Earth itself, MK and her posse – exiled Leafman and romantic interest, Nod (Josh Hutcherson), square-jawed leader of the Leafmen, Ronan (Colin Farrell), and a pair of wise-cracking gastropods (Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari) – battle Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his gang of baneful bug thingys, AKA the Boggans.

Though Epic walks a woefully-worn, save-the-planet path, it manages to feel fresh, even when drawing inspiration directly from Alice in WonderlandAvatar and The Lord of the Rings.

Aside from an overblown music interlude delivered by an Oz-ish caterpillar, director Chris Wedge (and voice of "Scrat") rarely misfires, heaping a hefty dose of humor and emotion on his lushly-envisioned, eco-friendly project.

It's a work of great ambition, a movie Disney would be proud to have produced.