Although this adventure's premise will appeal to children, and the child within us, the film itself is far too simplistic to be a classic. But at least the animation looks terrific, with swooping action and an inventive use of nature imagery. The result is relatively engaging, consistently entertaining and never remotely suspenseful.
The story begins as teen Mary Katherine, better known as MK (voiced by Seyfried), returns home to live with her mad-inventor dad (Sudeikis) after her mother dies. Dad's house is on the edge of the forest, where he is obsessed with discovering a miniature world of beings who keep the natural world running. But his focus on work has alienated everyone in his life, and MK is still struggling to break through to him. Then she has a freak encounter with the tiny Queen Tara (Knowles), who shrinks her to two inches tall. Suddenly she's working with the Queen's chief leafman Ronin (Farrell), a rogue soldier Nod (Hutcherson), and a goofy slug and snail duo (Ansari and O'Dowd) to save the forest from the evil Mandrake (Waltz).
The script eliminates all complexity in its depiction of good and evil. Mandrake is bent on destroying the forest for no real reason, trying to bring his creeping grey decay to what is otherwise an idyllic, magical world drenched in colourful flowers, verdant ferns and trickling brooks. In other words, it's so obvious who is going to win this battle that we never for a moment worry about our rag-tag group of heroes, no matter what violence they face. So we sit back and enjoy the animators' work. While the humans look like plastic dolls, the bugs, birds, plants and critters are simply astounding, and some of the action scenes are genuinely exhilarating.
Vocally, the lead characters are bland and uninteresting, as is usual for this kind of film. So Seyfried and Hutcherson have little to do but be a bit feisty. By contrast, Farrell and Waltz inject some intriguing edges to their characters, while scene-stealing comedy is provided by the marvellous Ansari and O'Dowd. And Tyler gets his own moment to shine as a guru-like caterpillar. But while these more amusing characters keep us laughing, and the snappy pace keeps us from being bored, there just isn't enough to the story to spark our imagination.
Run time: 102 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th May 2013
Box Office Worldwide: $268.4M
Production compaines: Blue Sky Studios, Twentieth Century Fox Animation
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Chris Wedge
Screenwriter: Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, James V. Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere
Starring: Josh Hutcherson as Nod (voice), Amanda Seyfried as Mary Katherine (voice), Colin Farrell as Ronin (voice), Jason Sudeikis as Bomba (voice), Aziz Ansari as Mub (voice), Beyoncé Knowles as Queen Tara (voice), Judah Friedlander as Taxi Driver (voice), Steven Tyler as Nim Galuu (voice), Pitbull as Bufo (voice), Blake Anderson as Dagda (voice), Christoph Waltz as Mandrake (voice), John DiMaggio as Pinecone Jinn (voice), Allison Bills as Dandelion Jinn (voice), Todd Cummings as Fruit Fly (Old) (voice), Troy Evans as Thistle Jinn (voice)