The Croods starring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds tells the tale of the first family of the stone age as they try to survive the end of the world. Is this a fantastic addition to the DreamWorks Animation library of characters or is it basically a “crude” ripoff of the Flintstones?
Grug is the patriarch to the last surviving caveman family on Earth. While other families were wiped out from disease, crushing, insect bites or being eaten, Grug has kept his family alive by following one simple rule: “New is bad.” To keep his family safe, Grug keeps his wife and kids in a cave for days on end in the darkness. They are protected from predators by a large boulder at the opening of the cave. When they get really hungry, they all go out and hunt for bird eggs, because that’s the only food that they know is safe to eat. Every night Grug tells stories to his children about ”Krispy Bear,” a stuffed animal who ventures out of the cave and every time he doesn’t listen to his dad, he dies a horrible death. This is unsettling to Grug’s eldest daughter, Eep. She is an adventurous teenager who desperately wants to learn new things and explore the world outside of the cave.
One night Eep sees a strange yellowish orange light creep into the cave. As she goes to investigate, it disappears. Eep sneaks out to follow it. She discovers a small sun on the ground. Out of the shadows emerges a boy dressed as a wart hog who introduces himself as Guy. He tells Eep that it’s not a tiny sun, but fire. He also informs her that the world is ending and that she needs to follow him to “Tomorrow.” Grug wakes up and discovers Eep’s disappearance. He followers her scent to find her with Guy when he too is informed of the world’s end. Grug wants nothing to do with Tomorrow. He gets his family to go back to the cave, but before he can, the ground starts to rumble and the cliffs collapse. Part of a mountain side crumbles and destroys Grug’s cave. Unknown what to do next, the family must now do what they never done before, discover something new with the help of Guy’s ideas.
Lately the majority of animated family movies have some sort of domestic dispute as the basis of the plot. Brave had a mother/daughter conflict. Ice Age: Continental Drift had a dad dealing with teenage daughter trouble. Even How to Train Your Dragon was about a son wanting the approval of his father. DreamWork’s The Croods is no different. It’s basically a computer animated movie of a Tim Allen television sitcom. Beyond overprotective father wants to keep family safe, but rambunctious teenage daughter wants her freedom. Outsider young male then shows father the ills of his ways. Comedy and antics ensue. Sound familiar? Now while the the premise of the plot seems recycled and the characters rehashed, what the film offers is family friendly humor, amazing visuals, spectacular creatures, and fantastic 3D effects.
Providing their voice talents to the film are Nicholas Cage as Grug the father, Emma Stone as Eep the teenage daughter, Ryan Reynolds as Guy the male outside, Catherine Keener as Ugga the mother, Clark Duke as Thunk the son and Cloris Leachman as Gran, Grug’s pesky mother-in-law that he wishes wouldn’t survive another day. The last final character is the baby, Sandy. She didn’t talk. Instead she made animalistic grunting and screaming noises. She was really cute. One scene when the family was hunting, Grug yells out, “Unleash the baby!” due to her wild child behavior. I did enjoy all the dynamics of the family. The animators used a lot of attention to detail to make the characters motions look cavemen by adding ape-like postures and movement. The filmmakers simply didn’t put regular people and time travel them back to the stone age, they created believable neanderthals.
The Croods was written and directed by veteran animated filmmakers, Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco. Sanders is responsible for creating Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon. From the concept art of the film I saw, you could definitely see the Stich influence on the characters, but the final product gave Grug and family a more ape-like neanderthal appearance and mannerisms. De Micco doesn’t have a lot of directing experience, but has previously written Racing Stripes, Space Chimps and the upcoming Hong Kong Phooey adaptation. While parts of the dialog had the same family quarrels we have already experienced in previous films, like Hotel Transylvania, what I enjoyed is the explanation of how certain things were created like fire and shoes.
Visually the movie is pretty stunning. From the landscapes to the animals to the natural disasters, everything was gorgeously rendered. This was even emphasized fantastically in 3D. So many times I saw children try to grab objects out of the air like burning embers, dust, and flowers that were floating in the air. I thought The Croods really took advantage of the 3D experience.
My absolute favorite part of the movie’s imaginative creativity was the animals. Imagine pre-evolution hybrids. There were bunnie-bats, canine-crocodiles, ostrich-rams and bear-owls. A couple really cool ones with names were the Macawnivore, part sabre-toothed tiger with a huge head and the coloring of a macaw parrot, and Liyote, a creature with the body and mannerisms of a coyote, but the skin, ears and tongue of a lizard. If they ever make these into stuffed animals, parents better be prepared to go broke, because they were all pretty cute and cool. The one animal to steal the show is Guy’s pet sloth named Belt. Not only does Belt help Guy with his inventive ideas, but he also keeps his pants up, thus the name.
While The Croods wasn’t my favorite family movie to take my kids, we all had a fun time. As a fan of Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon, I’d have to rank this third behind the other two. While the visuals were fantastic, I found the dialog to be long and drawn out. This is a problem I could see in taking small ones. Kids younger than five years old may easily become bored and restless. I do highly recommend seeing it 3D, but save some money and take the kids to a bargain matinee. The movie is enjoyable for the entire family, but I feel it’s the same dysfunctional family story with just new characters. To the film’s credit, there was a lot of heart and intense moments in the film’s finale. If you are looking to take the family out for a good time, you may want to check out The Croods, but if you miss out, it’s definitely a movie to check out when it hits the home video market.
In Theaters: March 22, 2013
Runtime: 92 min
Rating: PG (for some scary action)
Director: Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
Genre: Animated, Family
Distributor: DreamWorks Animation
Official Site: http://www.thecroodsmovie.com
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