Oh yeah, kids, this is going to be totally... eh, decent, I guess. Man, this title would have been lazy years ago, long before the web geeks came along and started applying it as an adjective to just about everything, to where the once-awesome term became annoying, which isn't that surprising, seeing as how kids have lately figured out a way to make "You only live once" grating. Forget you, Drake, and forget Blue Sky Studios for this film, not because I don't like this film, but because, with this effort, they just have to be trying to revive both that meme movement of using the term "epic" as an informal adjective, as well as Homer, just long enough to roll over in his grave. You know that this is a mere pop film, not just because it's by no means sweeping enough to be an actual epic, but because it features Josh Hutcherson fulfilling his obligation to be in as many family fantasy/sci-fi films as possible, Beyoncé Knowles and Pitbull fulfilling their roles of selling this to the hip-hop heads, and Steven Tyler fulfilling his destiny of being a cartoon. I'd say that the big-eyed Amanda Seyfried, as beautiful as she is in real life, is also fulfilling her destiny of being a cartoon, but after "Lovelace", I'm starting to rethink her family-friendliness, or at least how diverse a performer can be in selecting subject matter, which isn't to say that I'm not still weirded out by the fact that this film features such serious acting talents as Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz teaming up with Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd and Jason Sudeikis. Well, the two comedians must have mistaken Farrell for Will Ferrell, and as for Waltz, come on, he's just too charming for you to not find him a little bit funny. Shoot, it's not like Farrell hasn't been in some laughable stuff... like the not-so-serious "Horrible Bosses" (Ironic how Sudeikis wanted to kill his Colin Farrell-played boss in that film, now can't get off of Farrell's back), but hey, I'd consider his track record better than plenty are saying, with this effort being yet another fair addition to the charming and Irish vial of box office poison's resume, in spite of rough patches.
Now, with all of my joking about how this cast is somewhat all over the place in its seriousness and whatnot (Everyone from Christoph Waltz to Pitbull; what is up with this?), the film itself is somewhat all over the place with its tone, carrying a generally lighthearted energy that goes broken by overt heights in fluff and humor, if not heights in dramatic kick, and whose breaking leaves the humor and depth to go diluted in its effectiveness. The tonal inconsistencies limit impact, and it doesn't help that the film's tonal extremes at least keep consistent in cheesiness, which sometimes plagues the more dramatic attributes with bloated moments in atmospheric kick, while delivering more frequently of somewhat corny dialogue and characterization thinness. Subtlety issues and a sense of kiddiness mark particularly glaring missteps in inspiration consistency within storytelling, although I can't say that substance is often, if at all all that inspired. Whether it be because of the attempts at family friendliness or whatever, this film's bite to consequence and depth is limited, even in concept, where the story feels held back, and, of course, further watered down by sheer familiarity. While this effort is rarely all that trite, it is, not barely, or hardly, but never all that refreshing, being practically shameless in its offering formulaic characterization, as well as plotting that is even more formulaic, until the final product collapses as hopelessly predictable, thus leaving a sense of laziness in certain areas to go further emphasized. Well, I don't know if I would be so quick to denounce this film as lazy, even I am only referring to certain elements, as this is a passably inspired effort, but I certainly can't say that this film is as inspired or consistent as it should have been, which isn't to say that natural shortcomings to this somewhat thin narrative don't hold the final product back enough to make it hard to challenge forgettability, reinforced by all of the tonal unevenness, kiddiness and clichés. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that inspiration, while limited, is adequate, particularly in the film's artistic aspects.
Conventional, but lively, like the usual Danny Elfman effort, this film's score offers a heartfelt grandness that compensates for familiarity just fine, and is sometimes beautiful, while visuals prove to be more recurrently gorgeous, due to Renato Falcão's deliverance on rich coloration and crisp lighting that catch your eyes and emphasize the loveliness of the animations themselves. Well, some designs aren't especially creative, but most everything built into this world is impressive, as there is a rich diversity to the designs whose individual components are distinguished and memorable, with thoughtful depth and energy, particularly during the well-staged and sometimes near-grippingly dynamic action set pieces. Well-scored and colored, on top of being well-animated, this film's stylistic and technical proficiency, alone, bring a nifty world to life pretty remarkably, and do so with the help of performances which play just as big of a role as strong animation in selling well-crafted characters. There are some show-stealers, from the delightfully amusing Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd, to the, as strong figures, effectively distinguished Colin Farrell and Christoph Waltz, but really, most everyone plays his or her part well in terms of carrying this story, which doesn't exactly need all of the technical and acting color to intrigue. Granted, this story is, as I've said time and again, familiar, as well as lacking in flavor, but make no mistake, intrigue is here, found within a fair bit of depth and layering that make for an interesting idea, brought to life by highlights in a passably inspired interpretation. Backed by a pretty sizable team to be so under-inspired, William Joyce's, James V. Hart's, Daniel Shere's, Tom J. Astle's and Matt Ember's script is uneven, but not too shabby in handling its tonal extremes, gracing humor with general sharpness and depth with some meat, and being done a fair bit of justice by a directorial performance by Chris Wedge whose style sustain an entertaining pacing, sometimes slowed down enough to soak up depths and strengthen a sense of compellingness. Observing the promotion of this project, I felt that the film could have either hit pretty hard or underwhelmed, and while I am disappointed to find that the final product leans more towards the latter fate, I found myself entertained, if not engaged by the genuinely well-done elements - of which there are many - to find a decent, if forgettable family mini-epic, if you will.
In conclusion, a not-so-grand story's limpness goes stressed by tonal inconsistencies, cheesiness, a degree of dramatic laziness, and a lack of originality, until the final product slips as underwhelming, but not so deeply that lovely score work and cinematography, solid animations and action, decent performances and adequately inspired writing and direction can't be embraced for making Chris Wedge's shamelessly titled "Epic" (Seriously, they forced that) an entertaining and sometimes compelling family adventure opus, forgettable though it may be.
2.5/5 - Fair