dir Chris Wedge
prd Jerry Davis, Lori Forte
scr Tom J Astle, Matt Ember, James V Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere
voices Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Beyonce Knowles, Steven Tyler, Jason Sudeikis, Pitbull, Judah Friedlander, Blake Anderson
release UK 22.May.13, US 24.May.13
13/US Fox 1h42
Save the forest: Nod and MK

seyfried hutcherson farrell
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Epic While engaging and consistently entertaining, this film is a mixed bag combining decent and exceptional animation, sparky and lazy characters and some rather wobbly plotting. But the action sequences have plenty of visual flair even if there's never a moment of real suspense.

After her mother dies, teen MK (Seyfried) goes to live with her mad-botanist dad (Sudeikis) in his isolated forest home. He's seeking proof of a tiny society that runs the natural world, but his obsession has alienated everyone. Then MK stumbles right into it, meeting Queen Tara (Knowles), who bequeaths her with a pod that can save the forest from the evil Mandrake (Waltz). Now just two inches tall, MK teams with the Queen's chief leafman Ronin (Farrell), rogue soldier Nod (Hutcherson), slug Mub (Ansari) and snail Grub (O'Dowd) to save the forest.

The premise really catches the imagination of children (and the child in us), although the screenplay so simplifies everything that it undermines any sense of wonder or discovery. This is most obvious in the thinly defined worlds of colourful, loving, heroic good contrasted with grey, nasty evil. Mandrake is destructive for no reason at all, so we never feel his menace. Even a 2-year-old will know the cute, pretty ones will win.

The vocal cast has stand-out performances in Ansari and O'Dowd, who make the very most of their requisite comic-relief roles. Farrell's Ronin is more interesting than we expect, even if he's never properly explored. And Tyler livens things up as a caterpillar-guru called Nim Galuu. Even so, Dad's wheezy one-eyed, three-legged pug nearly steals the whole show from stereotypically feisty leads MK and Nod, whose romance is more than a little troubling. She isn't really two inches tall, after all.

The idea of a bug-sized society offers lots of scope for a movie, and the animators fill the screen with detail. The humans are plasticky, but the birds, insects, plants other critters are pretty astounding. The 3D effects wisely draw us in rather than throwing things into our faces. And even though it feels overlong, the pace is snappy and the action set-pieces thrilling enough to entertain us. But without better characters than this, it's unlikely to spark a franchise.

cert u themes, violence 12.May.13

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