So apparently there's all these little people who live in the forest. Some look like humans even though they're called Leaf-Men, because they wear leaves for armor even though leaves couldn't possibly work as decent armor, could they? Some of them look like flowers or plants with weird human-ish faces. Some of them are slugs who are sexually attracted to human girls, which is just plain creepy. And some of them are "Boggans," who sort of look like humanoid bugs but don't really have any real-life analogy and they're bad guys because they make things decay and they say things like "You can't stop the rot" as evil catchphrases.
The thing is ... you really can't stop the rot. I mean, it's a circle-of-life thing, and it's a thing that makes forests so incredibly cool and interesting, like how fallen dead trees create awesome environments for all kinds of really neat-o insects to find a home, and how decaying vegetation nourishes the next round of sprouting, beautiful things.
Why would you want to stop the rot? Rot is essential and amazing.
It's deeply odd that Epic doesn't understand this, because it appears that it wants to be all about the mysteries of nature 'n stuff. All that gorgeous CGI animation of sun-dappled tree canopies and pretty flowers and tiny warriors mounted on fast-flying birds? How does anyone think that all came to be?
I suppose it's all aiming at a grand — even, ahem, epic — sense of a battle between life and death, what with the Queen of the Forest (the voice of Beyoncé) passing on her stewardship of all things pretty if only the damn Boggans will let her, curse them! But, ironically, nothing feels organic, and certainly nothing feels magical here. It feels like no one involved with making this understands the first thing about life and death or the circles and cycles that drive it.
Our entry into this world comes via human teenager M.K. (the voice of Amanda Seyfried), who — thanks to some very strained "magic" — gets shrunk down to Leaf-Men size, whence she commences to get hit on by the aforementioned slug (the voice of Aziz Ansari) and flirt with a rebellious teen Leaf-Boy (the voice of Josh Hutcherson). She doesn't want to be in the forest at all: It's a weird place with which her weird dad (the voice of Jason Sudeikis) is obsessed, which is what drove her mom from him.
But now Mom has died, and M.K. has come to live with her estranged father ... and yet almost immediately after we get this setup for the tale, M.K.'s grief is forgotten. There's a powerful grief driving the plot in the Leaf-Men world, and yet there's no connection offered between what M.K. must be going through emotionally (not that we see any of that) and what is happening in the forest. Not on a small scale, that would allow her to relate to the Leaf-Men on a moment-by-moment basis, and not in the grand thematic scale, where human life and death might share a relevance with the battle with the Boggans against the rot that cannot be stopped. Or something.
There could have been a profound feeling of the tragic inevitability of death and decay to wonders of life and the beauty of the natural world. Instead, there's a horny slug.