Directed By: Chris Wedge

Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Beyoncé Knowles, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz, Aziz Ansari, Chris O'Dowd, Pitbull, Jason Sudeikis, and Steven Tyler

Is it me or are animated films more violent these days?  I'm going to date myself by saying this, but I grew up during the Second Golden Age of Disney with movies like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King.  I grew up when films were told with a song and dance, not a sword and shield.  Just look at the animated films of today.  Last summer, we had a princess archer in Brave.  Last fall, we had a badass Easter Bunny and a thunderous Santa Claus in Rise of the Guardians.  Now, we have warring tiny little Leafmen in the animated feature hitting theaters this weekend, Epic.

After recently losing her mother, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), "M.K.", decides to go see her estranged father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis).  Living a secluded life, her father dwells in a home in the woods studying what he believes to be a tiny civilization that somehow sustains the ecosystem.  His beliefs have cost him his friends, his reputation, and his marriage over the years.  Because he obsesses over his studies and not his grieving daughter, it's about to cost him M.K.  No one has ever considered the notion that he could just be right and that there could be a tiny world beneath our fingertips.  M.K. finds this out the hard way while wandering through the forest.

Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), the mother of the forest, is waging a war alongside her army of Leafmen to protect the forest from Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his army of Boggans.  Mandrake, who just wants to watch the forest decay, will do anything to take out his longtime foe and poses a major threat to her.  Interestingly enough, today is the day that Tara is to select her successor and pass her powers on to the next queen, something critical to the survival of the forest.  To do so, she must select a pod from the forest to transfer her power. 

Against the advice of Ronin (Colin Farrell), the leader of the Leafmen, Tara risks her life to select a pod, and Mandrake shoots her down with a bow and arrow.  Before dying, she transfers her powers to the pod she selected.  M.K., leaving her neglectful father, encounters the dying queen in the forest and is brought down to size by her.  Tara tasks M.K. with taking the pod to a caterpillar named Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler) and protecting it until its birth.  With her powers vested in a pod, Tara passes away and leaves M.K. to carry out this daunting task in a world that she never believed existed before today, but she's not alone.  M.K. will have the help of Ronin, wayward Leafman rookie Nod (Josh Hutcherson), snail Grub (Chris O'Dowd), and slug Mub (Aziz Ansari).

Epic is undoubtedly one fun animated film.  Action-packed and beautifully crafted, it's definitely got something good for kids of all ages.  Director Chris Wedge brings a lot of silly comedy that will appeal to a younger audience.  That being said, Epic is not a film for parents.  It's not layered with nuggets of adult humor like Shrek or Happy Feet.  It's a straightforward, earnest fantasy adventure for the kiddies and for the kiddies alone.

The movie certainly features a star-studded ensemble, and they generally deliver solid voice performances.  Amanda Seyfried does well as stomper M.K. and has solid chemistry with Josh Hutcherson's Nod.  Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari make their presence known as the comedic snail-and-slug duo Grub and Mub.  Voice acting even masks the fact that Beyoncé is not the world's greatest actress.  However, the standout amongst this elite cast is Christoph Waltz.  As the film's primary villain Mandrake, Waltz gives us a delightful, fun menace.  Giving a witty, over-the-top performance, Waltz steals the show every time his character has a word to say. 

I'm sure the kids will have fun during Epic.  Parents, you may need a glass or two of Moscato though.  With loads of action, some beautiful images, and an unrelenting focus on teamwork (hence the expression "Many leaves, one tree"), it's a predictable film made just for the under-12 crowd.  I wouldn't pay for 3D tickets though as they're not necessarily worth it.  Epic gets a 0.06% rating.