Rarely do we cover animated features in the When Can I Watch column. Unless it’s Persepolis, or the latest Studio Ghibli movie, animation automatically means a Green Light for parents seeking cinematic options at neighborhood movie theaters. And with kids getting out of school over the next few weeks, I can anticipate a number of moms and dads looking for a proper movie escape, or a play date on a sweltering afternoon.
, for whatever reason, is getting overlooked in the crowded marketplace, as families flock to Iron Man
(understandably) and bide their time until Pixar invites us all to Monsters University
(again, understandably). The movie doesn’t deserve the cold shoulder, however, and I want to shine a light on the latest from Blue Sky in hopes of driving a few more families to the theater to check this one out.
With that in mind, let’s shrink ourselves to the size of a Leafman, fend off a Boggan, and figure out when you can watch Epic with your kids.
Green Lights: “We’re all connected!”
You might vaguely recognize the heroic soldiers of Epic if you read William Joyce’s book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs to your kids. The movie borrows very little from that beautiful (but short) tale, grabbing inspiration but expanding its scope to tell a father-daughter story with conservation roots.
The father-daughter relationship cooked up by Epic director Chris Wedge hit me the hardest, because without it, the film’s a handsome but conventional good-versus-evil fairy tale. But our lead character M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) gives the movie a necessary, emotional hook. She recently lost her mother. Before her mom died, though, M.K. promised she’d try to reconnect with her estranged father: a scatterbrained scientist named Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) who is lost in his research of the mysterious Leaf Men. M.K. gives it the old college try, but can’t connect with her dad, who’s consumed by his work.
Their scenes ripped my heart out. I’m a work-from-home father. If you read this column on a regular basis, you know I have two sons who want me to play ball or watch something with them every time they’re home from school or practice. If I stopped to play with them every time they asked, you’d never have a column to read. I sympathize with Bomba, a man chasing his dream, but begged for him to put his work down and hug his daughter! It’s a strong facet of Epic that I didn’t anticipate.
The conservation messages about protecting nature and fighting to better our planet are evident in Epic, but they don’t smash us over the head in the process. You might not look at a leaf the same way after Wedge’s film, but the moral of the story doesn’t overpower the action.
And the action, particularly in 3D, is a selling point. If you saw Robots, you know how Wedge handles fluid, large-scale animation set pieces. There are some fantastic aerial scenes in Epic, some involving hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds.
Epic ticks off the boxes of a traditional family movie, giving us comic relief in talking snails (voiced by Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari) an plenty of edge-of-our-seats adventure. The part I most appreciated is that there’s a powerful female protagonist in M.K., as well as a noteworthy Leaf Man named Nod (Josh Hutcherson) who must learn the importance of working as part of a team. There are valuable lessons to be found in Epic, and they are weaved through an impressive animated feature.
Are there Red Flags? One or two. Let’s run through them.
Red Flags: “I grew up in that meadow … ”
The conservation messages in Epic will connect with moms and dads without boring kids. At times, it might have you thinking of how often our landscapes change as we grow and our communities expand. Every time we pass an area of bulldozed trees – making room for a new development of shopping center – my wife laments a fallen section of natural area that used to beautify our neighborhoods. That point is emphasized often in Epic.
There’s action-peril in the film, as M.K. and Nod help a Leaf Man leader named Ronin (Colin Farrell) complete a mission passed down by a dying queen (voiced by Beyonce). And yes, the good Queen Tara does die on-screen, attacked by the evil Boggarts, but it isn’t an intense scene and it’s somewhat pivotal to the story being told.
If anything, Epic suffers a bit from having too much story, and the mythology of the Leaf Men – and the world they fight to protect – could go over the heads of the youngest audience members. There are extended sequences about selecting a proper heir for a nature kingdom, of fighting alongside your brethren in the Leaf Men army, and of helping M.K. reconnect with her dad. None of these plotlines are too complicated for kids. But when all three of them vie for attentions in the same movie, it can get a bit overwhelming.
That being said…
Epic should entertain any kid age six and up. It has action, comedy, animated thrills and a sweet father-daughter relationship that will have some parents hugging their children extra tight.
I think that Epic
’s in a good spot, ready to lure in the Croods
crowd and giving families an alternative to Iron Man
or Star Trek
while they wait for Pixar’s latest. Give Epic
a try while it’s in theaters, and as always, if you do take your kids to the movie, please let me know how it goes!
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That eith My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.