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Like other fantasy films, only smaller
on May 26, 2013
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, was convinced that five photos taken by Elise Wright and Frances Griffiths were pictures of genuine fairies. They later admitted that the whole thing was a hoax. That's the modern-day premise of "Epic," in which Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) has dedicated his life's work - to the exclusion of his family - to proving the existence of fairies. His theory is that we can't see these fairies because they move out of phase, faster than us (or alternately, we're slower than them). And so Bomba's estranged daughter, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) has come home to live with her father.
If the fairies weren't real this would be a very short film, so it's not a spoiler to say that they exist. There's a dizzying variety, embodied primarily by two sides; the Leafmen led by Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) represent the forces of life and the Boggans led by Mandrake (Christopher Waltz) represent the forces of death. A special day is nigh: the summer solstice coincides with a full moon, which is the time Queen Tara chooses a successor by passing on a magic pod that will bloom according to its circumstances. If it grows in the light of the full moon it will empower the darkness, which of course encourages the Boggans to commit a full scale assault.
Somewhere along the way, Mary Katherine (MK for short) shrinks down, randomly inserted Nod (Josh Hutcherson) rebels against the more serious Ronin (Colin Farrell), and snail Grub (Chris O'Dowd) and slug Mub (Aziz Ansari) perform a recurring comedy skit. MK carries most of the film, with the other characters in orbit around her with their throwaway plots (Nod lost his dad and resents Ronin's paternal stance towards him, Mub wants to be a Leafman, Grub has a crush on MK). But mostly "Epic" is a series of epic fight scenes between elf-like leaf warriors and orc-like goblins.
"Epic" does 3D very well. The fight scenes are energetic and the stakes are high; when villains fall off their mount they fall to their death - the film doesn't shy away from this, smearing one Boggan on a windshield - and the action clicks along at a frenetic pace. But when you strip away the novelty of big vs. little, tree vs. fungus people, "Epic" is basically like every other action fantasy film.
This doesn't make "Epic" bad, but it's not particularly kid-friendly either. It's pretty to look at, but up close, it's not nearly as exciting as you might have hoped. My son got bored about halfway through.