It seems like at some point or another, every Hollywood actor does voice work for an animated feature. It is a fairly easy payday, because doing the voice of an animated character requires far less time to complete than a traditional on-camera part. Some may even get the chance to do voice work in a sequel or two, should the producing studio decide to turn the movie into a franchise. The upcoming movie “Epic” may not be a franchise yet, but it definitely has enough star power providing the voices to make it a potential series.
The film centers on M.K. (short for Mary Katherine), a seventeen-year-old girl who is unhappy with the way her dad neglects her in order to conduct his studies of artifacts from a mysterious group of warriors that may or may not exist. Her voice is provided by Amanda Seyfried, who got lots of kudos last year for her starring role in the Oscar-winning musical “Les Miserables.” M.K.’s preoccupied dad, Professor Bomba, is voiced by Jason Sudeikis, whose burgeoning film career is rumored to be the reason why he is likely to leave his cushy post as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.”
M.K. leaves a note for her dad that she is running away and chases her dog into the forest, where she comes upon a golden leaf that causes her to shrink when she touches it. This shrinking makes her the same size as the Leafmen, the warriors her dad has been trying to find. The Leafmen are led by the courageous Ronin, who is voiced by Colin Farrell. The Irish actor has undergone a career resurgence of sorts over the last few years, having appeared in several Hollywood blockbusters and reestablished himself as a versatile actor who can do everything from character acting to leading roles. Now, he can add voice work to his long and rapidly expanding résumé.
Another Leafman standout is Nod, who is new to the warrior ways, having just become one of the fighters in the group. He is voiced by Josh Hutcherson, whom many will probably recognize as Peeta Mellark, a potential love interest for Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.” He is set to reprise his role in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” which is set for a November 2013 release in theaters, right around Thanksgiving.
Of course, no animated film would be complete without at least one wisecracking sidekick, and “Epic” provides two: a slug named Mub and a snail named Grub, voiced by Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd respectively. Ansari is perhaps best known for his stand-up comedy and as the loveable but misguided office worker Tom Haverford in the NBC comedy “Parks and Recreation.” O’Dowd is also a comedian and has become quite a star in the U.S. since his appearance as a hopelessly romantic cop in “Bridesmaids.”
All of the Leafmen and creatures are guided by Queen Tara, a wise protector of the forest. Her voice is provided by singing superstar Beyoncé, who hasn’t had a film role since 2009’s “Obsessed.” She has appeared in numerous soundtracks in that four-year gap, including a track on “The Great Gatsby” album. She also penned a song that she sings for “Epic” called “Rise Up.”
Every story has to have a struggle, and a villain is usually involved in that struggle. “Epic” has one of the best villains in recent memory in Christoph Waltz, who stars as the leader of a group of Leafmen enemies called the Boggans. His name is Mandrake, and his group of Boggans love to cause rot. A forest that has too much rot is a forest in peril, which is why the Leafmen must stop Mandrake before he and his minions destroy their home. M.K. becomes friends with the Leafmen and joins them in their epic battle against Mandrake and the Boggans.
A few smaller supporting roles are also worthy of mention, especially since most of them provide some fun comic relief. Music star Pitbull portrays a toad named Bufo, which marks his scripted feature film debut. He had previously done an unscripted concert movie special called “Pitbull Presents: What Happens in Miami Never Happened.” Other actors appearing in the film include Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler as a caterpillar named Nim Galuu, “30 Rock” star Judah Friedlander, and Blake Anderson from the Comedy Central series “Workaholics.” The film opens in the U.S. on May 24, 2013.