The hopeful title of "Epic" suggests big things in a way that a more accurate title, such as "How to Train Your Hummingbird," would not. The animated result isn't bad. It's an adequate baby sitter. But where's the allure in telling the truth? Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios present "Adequate"?
A few days after seeing "Epic," which is loosely based on a few concepts in William Joyce's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," it's difficult to keep its story and characters, or even its visual design, in your mind's eye, in part because the five credited screenwriters overload the narrative with incident and threatening complication.
Day-old ("Ice Age") or fresh ("Ratatouille"), globally successful animated features tend to invite simple description. Mammoth family and pals want to survive. Rat wants to become a gourmet chef.
"Epic"? A girl (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), whose mother has recently died, discovers what her dad, an addled inventor (Jason Sudeikis), suspected was there, in the forest, all along: An alternative and tiny universe of Moonhaven (I've toured the model homes there; they're lovely), where warriors both proven (Colin Farrell) and fledgling (Josh Hutcherson) fly on the tiny backs of hummingbirds. Queen Tara (Beyonce) must pick a special flower to regenerate the forest and complete some sort of ritual, which is under attack from the rapacious land-grabber Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), one of the Boggans out for the blood of the Leafmen. Humans must aid the lil' green 'uns, and workaholic father must learn to stop and smell the roses and get to know his daughter.
See? See how long that took to explain?
"How to Train Your Dragon," itself riding on the profitable back of "Avatar," proved that 3-D computer animation looks best from the air. The flying sequences in "Epic" deliver some satisfying swoops and dives. Director Chris Wedge, who did the first "Ice Age" and the more interesting (though similarly overcrowded) "Robots," manages the traffic well enough.
What "Epic" lacks is a look to remember. Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd are fun and shrewdly matched, though, as the mollusks cracking wise on the sidelines of a plot recalling (don't laugh) "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as much as "Ferngully."
And if you think this review refers to a surfeit of other movies and plays, wait'll ya see the picture.
'Epic' -- 2 stars
MPAA rating: PG (for mild action, some scary images and brief rude language)
Running time: 1:42