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.
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But things are changing in the animation scene. The freshness of CG has worn away, and audiences are no longer wowed by flashy technology alone. Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles has raised the bar on both animation excellence and story-telling savvy to a level that will be hard to top in coming years. If such early hits as Toy Story or Antz premiered today, it's unlikely they would wow the crowds nearly as much as they did on their initial releases. It's a tough time to be an animated film.
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