Derivative as all get-out and plainly concocted by a committee, "Epic" is a children's animated film that is more entertaining and emotional than it has any right to be.
Characters make sacrifices and die, miss their parents and mourn. And we're touched. At least a little. Hard lessons are learned and laughs land on cue. Throw in some truly gorgeous animation and Blue Sky, the studio that made it, delivers more proof that it's moved on from the junky cash-machine "Ice Age" movies, even if this one doesn't rise to the charms and wit of "Rio." Taking characters from William Joyce's children's novel about "Leaf Men" and "Brave Good Bugs," a team of writers has borrowed from "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" for a story about the fairy forces of life in a forest, the Leaf Men (and Women) and their allies, in battle with the rotting reptilian bog-dwelling forces of decay.
A dotty scientist has surveillance cameras covering the forest where this struggle is going on and suspects there are little people out there, riding into battle on hummingbirds and crows, armored and armed with bows and arrows.
But it's his daughter, M.K. (voice of Amanda Seyfried), who finds the proof. That happens when she's magically shrunk by the Queen (Beyoncé Knowles) and tasked with ensuring that this one lily pad blooms and renews life by the light of the full moon.
M.K. struggles to survive this brave (tiny) new world, where warriors like the rebellious Nod (Josh Hutcherson) and mission-focused Ronin (Colin Farrell) must fend off the reptilian designs of Mandrake (Christoph Waltz).
The film's 3-D makes excellent use of depth of field, delivering eye-popping next-generation animation. But that's the sort of thing critics mention when the story is a patchwork of ideas and inventions borrowed elsewhere. As high as the bar has been raised on this sort of animation, "Epic" offers more evidence that a strong story is worth more than any next-generation software.
PLOT Animated fable about a teenage girl who is magically transported into an alternate universe.
RATING PG (mild action, some scary images and brief rude language)
BOTTOM LINE Good 3-D, poor story