May 24, 2013 by abbyo
You’d think that given the amount of time I dedicate to re-watching and discussing my favorite childhood movies on this blog (and in my everyday life, too) that I’d enjoy watching more kids’ movies. But I don’t. Not often, anyway. At the risk of sounding like an old-timer at the still-young age of 24, children’s entertainment isn’t nearly as cool as it used to be. Sure, we’ve still got Pixar, Studio Ghibli and some halfway-decent stuff from Disney every now and again. But the childhood classics—the “Secret Gardens,” “Lion Kings” and “Nightmare Before Christmases” of this generation of children’s movies feel few and far between anymore.
That’s why, when one comes out that looks like it might be good, I get interested. And when it turns out to reach those expectations, I get a little excited. “Epic,” out in wide release today, is a children’s movie worth getting excited about. And considering that the other big-ticket family film this summer is Pixar’s “Monsters University,” this latest animated offering from Chris Wedge (of “Ice Age” fame) may be the best movie under PG-13 that you’re likely to get before November this year.
“Epic” tells a clever, fun story about a teenage girl, MK (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), who moves in with her eccentric dad (Jason Sudekis) after the death of her mother. MK’s father is obsessed with proving the existence of tiny people living in the forest around their house. Of course, though MK disbelieves her dad at first, she discovers this miniscule society for herself when she’s magically shrunken down to their size. To get home, she has to help the forest people, called Leafmen, defend their home from the nasty, blight-inducing Bogginses.
Almost every piece of “Epic” is incredibly thought-out. The jokes are great, the animation is gorgeous, and there’s enough use of real-life wildlife sights and sounds to prove that Wedge and his team of animators did plenty of research before making the film. The characters are also developed to an impressive level that kids’ films don’t often reach for. Perhaps the only exception is a caterpillar voiced by Steven Tyler that feels like something added at the last minute to give the film its recognizable celebrity voice quota (there’s also a forest queen voiced by Beyonce, but tragically, unlike Tyler, she doesn’t get to sing).
But the best things “Epic” offers come in its detailed portrait of forest life. The plants that make up the Leafmen’s home are real plants, and behave the way they would in real life. They ride on hummingbirds with tiny saddles attached, and, given how quickly those critters move in real life, it doesn’t seem like it would be too much of a stretch to see itty-bitty riders sitting on their backs. Considering the number of times I set up pretend garden kingdoms in my mom’s flowerbed growing up, “Epic” gets the plausibility tone just right.
“Epic” is a boatload of fun. It’s smart, charming, funny and beautiful to look at. Kids will find plenty to laugh at, and parents will find lots to stare at, mouths agape. Seeing it in 3D really enhances the experience, but I imagine the movie would look just as great in its natural state, too. Not only is it a children’s movie worth seeing, it’s one worth seeing on the big screen, which these days is just about as novel as a tiny man riding a hummingbird.