Susan Granger's review of 'Epic'

Beautiful to behold but bewildering in its allegorical concept, this computer-animated fable from the creators of "Ice Age" and "Rio" revolves around a recently widowed, absent-minded scientist, Professor Bomba (Jason Sudekis), and

his estranged 17-year-old daughter, Mary Katherine -- a.k.a. M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) -- living on the edge of a vast woodland.

One day, when their one-eyed, three-legged pug Ozzy runs off, feisty M.K. follows him, which leads her to a fateful encounter with dying Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), a tiny, Persephone-like creature who embodies the life force of the forest.

The queen entrusts now-miniaturized M.K. with her chosen Royal water-lily pod which will guide her people to crown their new queen -- but only if it blooms at midnight in the moonlight during the summer solstice.

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On her perilous mission in the microscopic realm of Moonhaven, M.K. is guided by a veteran Leaf Man, warrior Ronin (Colin Farrell), and befriended by a rebellious Leaf teen, Nod (Josh Hutcherson). There are evil forces in opposition, including a ferocious Boggen named Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), who is determined to allow the endangered forest to rot and decay.

Based on William Joyce's illustrated children's book "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs," the contrived, unfocused script by James V. Hart, William Joyce, Dan Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember and director Chris Wedge gets inspiration from "Alice in Wonderland," "The Wizard of Oz," "A Bug's Life," "The Secret World of Arrietty," "The Borrowers," even "Avatar." Yet the essential story of parents/children coping with loss gets muddled in magic and mysticism. Even the generic title is misleading.

On the plus side, Moonhaven's vividly exquisite, deeply textured animation is enchanting, making the 3-D choice worthwhile, particularly when the intrepid Leaf Men ride their hummingbirds and the Munchkin-like flower-people appear. Comic relief comes from the slug Mub (Aziz Ansari), the snail Grub (Chris O'Dowd), along with the guru/caterpillar Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler).

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Epic" is

a sweet 6. It's an eye-popping, eco-friendly adventure,

suitable for children of all ages.