If you have a little one fascinated by the struggle between dung and mulch, “Epic” may briefly hold your child’s interest. Yet even young would-be botanists will find this charmless animated adventure as exciting as watching grass grow.
On the forest floor, tiny leaf-men ride birds and watch over the forest. Their queen (a dull vocal performance from Beyoncé) is choosing a small bud to become her heir when the evil Boggans, who live to rot away greenery, interrupt her. The bud lands with human teen Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), who’s visiting her nutty professor dad at his cabin.
Grasping the bud as a full moon rises, M.K. is shrunk down to leaf-man size. Recruited to help leaf-man warrior Ronin (Colin Farrell) and young soldier Nod (Josh Hutcherson), M.K. learns that every daisy, dandelion and stick has a face, as her dad suspected, and that a skeletal creature called Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) wants to rule the forest. A caterpillar librarian (Steven Tyler, really?) croaks out a song. An annoying slug-and-snail team provide “comic” relief.
It all gets massively tedious, a ripoff of Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life” and Disney’s sweet and expansive “Tinker Bell” direct-to-DVD movies. You can hear actors plopping down to collect paychecks as they voice characters so thin they could be knocked over by a spore.
The lesson that life is “many leaves connected to one tree” is sprinkled on like an afterthought, just like the muddy 3-D. Even the title sounds as if no one could think of anything wittier. There’s also a three-legged, one-eyed old pug dog that’s meant to be “awww!” but comes off “ewww!” Uninspired family movies like “Epic” will only inspire “zzz” in kid audiences.