‘Epic’ is solid, but not great, kids’ fare

Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) flies into battle to claim the forest he believes should have always been his in a scene from “Epic.”

The further you get into the world of kid movie fantasy, the less likely you’re going to find a constitutional democracy.

The Smurfs, characters in “Shrek” and ants in “A Bug’s Life” all operate under some form of autocracy. Even “Toy Story” seemed to be ruled with a Buzz/Woody duumvirate for the first two movies, before the cast fell briefly under the tyranny of Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear.

“Epic” is a solid, family-friendly animated adventure, well-polished, well-intentioned and filled with plenty of rousing action for short attention spans. The fairy colony (an oligarchy, of course), will charm any young moviegoers who love dollhouses or princesses.

But the pacing is too quick and scenes become repetitive. Whether it’s systems of government in kid movies or what’s good at the snack bar, parents may find their minds wandering outside the boundaries of the film.

The plot of “Epic” is more layered than most animated summer fare, with three films worth of daddy issues. After the death of her mother, Mary Katherine returns to visit her father, a scientist who is obsessively investigating a colony of tiny leaf people in the forest near his home.

M.K. is shrunk to fairy-size, and meets a fatherless warrior named Nod, who feels out of place among his people.

There’s a queen voiced by Beyonce, an attack by a neighboring clan of troll-like fairies and some comic relief by a smart-talking slug and snail. The leaf people reproduce akin to the antagonists in “Alien,” minus the face-hugging scenes.

The newest franchise from Blue Sky Studios was a safe choice, with established director Chris Wedge (“Ice Age”) and a subject with potential for broad appeal. And yet it’s hard to imagine this will be anyone’s favorite movie in 5 or 10 or 20 years.

“Epic” is beautiful to look at from a distance, with forest canopies that look like water paintings, and a ton of detail.

The use of camouflage is impressive in several scenes, as is the queen’s wizard-like ability to turn the flora and fauna into weaponry. The bad guys are appropriately creepy, with weapons that instantly turn tree pulp into cool-looking rot.

The script is less enjoyable, with the kind of too-witty banter and overblown speeches that inhabit lesser PG films. There’s a vague moral to the story that is hammered home — something about many leaves and one tree — and lots of reconciliation at the end.