I admit, while I’m a fan of most family entertainment, I have a special place in my heart for animated films, so I was excited when I saw the preview for Epic, a cartoon action adventure about a teenage girl who gets miniaturized and sucked into a great battle to save the local forest. First of all, it was created by Blue Sky the company who had made the Ice Age movies, and it features a star studded cast including Beyonce as the Queen of the Forest, the rapper, Pitbull, as a bullfrog, and Josh Hutcherson from the Hunger Games as one of the heroic Leafmen.
But once the movie started, I became nervous, because it quickly featured a character I see popping up all too often in family films. It’s someone a fellow staff member has dubbed the “Idiot Father”. In its many forms, it’s a “Dad” who is bumbling, foolish, out-of-touch, over-bearing, sometimes a bully, or just plain wrong. Occasionally, he’s a combination of all of these. Basically, he is an idiot who the child or teen main character needs to fix or overcome. Examples can be seen in The Croods or Para-Norman. A positive father figure, on the other hand, can be found in Man of Steel or The Incredibles.
Epic starts down that path with the teen protagonist, MK, moving back in with her mad-scientist, estranged father after the death of her mom. Thank goodness the film redeems itself by putting forth powerful ideas of teamwork, self-sacrifice, and believing in each other, even if it’s not easy. The miniature defenders of the forest, the Leafmen, have a saying, “Many leaves, one tree,” meaning while we are all individuals, and small standing alone, together we can be mighty. Now that’s a motto for any good hero.