Not since Morgan Creek slapped Kevin Costner in a pair of emerald slacks have their been so many fairies gathered in a cinematic forest – not that that’s really going to get the film’s I-want-it-and-I-want-it-know, pre-school aged audience to pick Epic as it’s next subject of tantrum.

Honestly, the whole business proposal behind 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studio’s “Epic” seems to have been written with such a faint HB that nobody’s quite sure of any of the who’s or what’s said shingles are trying to accomplish with the picture.

In addition to ”Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves”, the flick has enigmatically decided to make its main competition any of those ’90s family flicks (It’ OK, “The Wizard” is safe!), with 1990’s ”Honey I Shrunk the Kids”- with its whole ‘human teenager gets shrunken down and plonked in the garden’ stencil – seemingly its main Ivan Drago to Rocky Balboa. Both “Epic” and “Honey” do similar things, only – like the Italian Stallion – the latter did it better.

Still, “Epic” comes with a message, one which the kids might just take away at the end of the day – it’s totally OK to pilfer, so long as it’s from Rick Moranis.

Seemingly determined to explore the possibilities beyond their rather limiting ”Ice Age” franchise (only so much you can do with an acorn, ya know!?), Rupert Murdoch and director Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) raid Dr. Wayne Szalinski’s lab, and combine their findings with some new computer-created toy-ready heroes and heroines. The result is an engaging-enough, and rather good-looking (though, let’s admit it, what CGI family films aren’t these days?!), film but one that definitely feels a tad stale and standard.

“Epic” tells of a battle that’s going on in the forest – one between the forces of good and evil. Caught up in the hidden battle are fairies, snails, glow worms, and talking flowers.
While chasing her dog through the forest, a grieving human girl (or ‘stomper’ as the little guys know us) named M.K (Amanda Seyfried) happens upon an injured fairy ‘Queen’ named Tara (Beyonce). Just before she passes, the tiny thing decides to shrink M.K down to her size, so that the human will be able to assist her people (“whether you like it or not, dog!”) – namely, soldiers Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson) in combating the forces of evil that are responsible for all the gloom and doom the forest is currently encountering. I don’t remember hearing anything about M.K getting medical, let alone getting double-pay for coming in at the last minute.

The unmistakable Christoph Waltz speaks for the film’s villain, Mandrake, while Jason Sudeikis lends his voice-box to MK’s eccentric father, Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari give life to a couple of spirited slugs, Aerosmith rocker Steve Tyler is a partying caterpillar, and musician Pitbull is a toad.

And all that is important, of course, because toddler’s have been requesting that “that wonderfully well-spoken actor from Django Unchained do an animated movie soon!” and that their “favourite singer, the guy from Aerosmith, be in a film like Ice Age” for the longest time (As fans of “Fantastic Four : Rise of the Silver Surfer” will attest, Fox listen to their fans).

The under 10’s (that’s age, not tracksuit-pant size) will have a reasonable time here; the film’s forest-friends world isn’t unenchating, and there’s enough cuteness, adventure and laughs on screen to divert attention from whatever, well, ‘Barbie’ movie-of-the-month they’ve been playing on end. And though it’s not choca-bloc with messages or life lessons, there’s a harmless sugariness to the film that’ll appeal to those parents who are constantly on guard – most of us!- when it comes to today’s sometimes questionably inappropriate family fare (Though I’ll take the blame for “The Last Exorcism II” – didn’t realize it included levitation).

But If the rather bland and unimaginative title didn’t already tip you off, “Epic” needed a few more minutes in the cinematic oven before being pulled out to serve – particularly if it was ever going to appeal to the broad masses. With the time it takes to put these computer generated flicks, let alone find the money to pay folks like Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson (“Hunger Games”) and Amanda Seyfried to lend their lungs to them, Fox could easily have tinkered with this a bit longer, resulting in something that kids might actually remember post-trip back home from the cinema (In my little one’s case, she remembered the 60cent chocolate frog I bought her at a petrol station afterwards more than she did anything else).

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