director Chris Wedge
viewed: 05/25/2013 at AMC Metreon 16, SF, CA
Not epic in the least, this very richly designed digitally animated feature has lots of polish but its verve virtually ends there. Adapted from a 1996 children’s book by William Joyce, the film feels like a vision that has been envisioned before, a nature story with quasi-ecological undertones, about a world in nature that exists below human eyesight. In it’s epic strides, it is like a green, kids version of Avatar (2009), with celebrity voices and big screen action.
That, of course, didn’t inhibit Clara and her friend Victoria utterly enjoying the film. In fact, they seemed the prime, primed audience for it in many ways.
For me, as can be the case in animated films, the only characters that jelled were the gelatinous slug voiced by Aziz Ansari and to a lesser extent the snail voiced by Chris O’Dowd. Ansari’s slug was by far the most amusing thing in the entire film for me.
It’s a richly imagined world, from an aesthetic perspective. A world of miniature life among the plants and critters of the woods. A dedicated crackpot scientist has spent his life trying to document this world, but it’s only when his visiting daughter becomes shrunken down into this microcosm, does the whole thing prove itself real. For all the good guys in the forest, there is an army of baddies called the Boggans who spread disease and decay (kind of like the Cavity Creeps of old Crest commercials), who represent an ideology of gloom. They aren’t inherently related to pollution. In fact, they may just be the natural order of death. Their leader is voiced by Christoph Waltz.
The voice acting varies from quite fun, such as Ansari to the really quite awful in Beyoncé Knowles (queen of the forest).
For my money, as good as the film looked, like a 3-D digital Fantasia (1940) with flower people of many stripes, it’s a rather lackluster affair in its whole being. While the girls dug it, I had to color it disappointing.