“Epic” (PG): There’s enough visual beauty and wit in this 3-D animated fable (based on “The Leaf Men” books by William Joyce) to keep kids 6 and older entertained. Still, the film feels long and occasionally fidget-worthy at 1 hour and 42 minutes. Somehow all the story strands don’t weave into whole cloth, and the villains seem only vaguely motivated. Impressive 3-D images such as swarming bats could briefly give toddlers the heebie-jeebies. A strong-willed 17-year-old named Mary Katherine (voice of Amanda Seyfried), who goes by M.K., comes to live with her estranged dad professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) after the apparent (it’s implied, not discussed) death of her mom. Kind but absent-minded, Bomba is obsessed with his research. M.K. suspects that’s why her mother left him. He is convinced – and we know it’s true because of a hint in the prologue – that out in the woods, almost too small to see, live tiny people. He has cameras set up but still lacks proof. The people are Leafmen. They and all the lesser forest creatures around them (who can all talk) have a whole civilization. Bomba doesn’t know that the flower Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) and her realm are threatened by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), evil leader of the Boggans, larvalike decay-producers who want to destroy the forest. Leafmen warriors fly on armored hummingbirds to fight the Boggans. M.K. wanders into the woods, still convinced her father is crazy, and happens to get caught in the middle of a battle. She catches a flower pod and like Alice in Wonderland, shrinks to Leafmen size. She’s befriended by Queen Tara and Tara’s warrior, the brave Ronin (Colin Farrell), and by his lackadaisical guard-in-training Nod (Josh Hutcherson). However, it is the gangly-eyeballed comic duo Mub (Aziz Ansari), a slug, and Grub (Chris O’Dowd), a snail, who make “Epic” intimate and funny.
The aerial bow-and-arrow battles between the larvalike Boggans and the Leafmen on their hummingbird fighter-jets get a bit harrowing at times and at least one tiny character dies. One scene, involving a huge squall of flying bats, made a toddler behind the Family Filmgoer cry briefly. When the tiny M.K. and her Leafmen pals visit the “big” world of her dad’s house, you worry they’ll get squashed.
“Fast and Furious 6” (PG-13): If car chases and tough-talking heroes give high school action fans a kick – especially if they favor all the PG-13-rated “Fast & Furious” films that came before – then “Fast & Furious 6” won’t disappoint. The level of violence and implied death and destruction of innocents make the film problematic for middle schoolers.
We find the street racing buddies far from L.A., living abroad as rich fugitives since their South American adventures in “Fast Five.” Veteran street racer Dom (Vin Diesel), former lawman Brian (Paul Walker) and his love Mia (Jordana Brewster), who is Dom’s sister, live in the Canary Islands. As the film opens, Dom and Brian are street racing to Mia’s bedside – she’s just had a baby. Then up shows U.S. agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who tried to catch them in the last film. He promises pardons for all if they help catch a rogue British agent named Shaw (Luke Evans) who has attacked military convoys in search of a precious and lethal computer chip. Shaw rolls with a gang of ace drivers, and Hobbs thinks Dom and his crew are the only ones who can catch them.
When Dom learns that his one-time love Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), whom he thought was dead, is now working for Shaw, he agrees to help in hopes he can bring her back into the fold.
Included are bone-cracking fights and implications of torture, much heavy-caliber gun violence and a car-tank-helicopter chase that crushes many vehicles on a public highway. It’s clear that many innocents would die. We don’t see any bystanders get hurt so the PG-13 rating stays intact. The script features occasional midrange profanity and rude gestures, as well as mild sexual innuendo.