TV spots for the Dreamworks/20th Century Fox collaboration entitled The Croods describe the prehistoric family as “the first modern family” – I suppose, trying to connect this new animated family to a current popular commodity. It shouldn’t stoop that low because The Croods is a good film and has every right to stand on its own.
Grugg (voiced by Nicolas Cage who sounds as if he’s been longing for an animated role) and his wife Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener) have a rather busy family who’s sole purpose on earth is to survive and not interact with anything “new”. This doesn’t sit well with Eep (voiced by a recognizable Emma Stone) who wall climbs and seeks anything that steps outside the norm of living in a cave.
A disaster occurs causing the family to relocate. But, by staying close to their homestead for ages, it’s tough to adapt and survive. Luckily, a teenage rascal named Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and his cute lil’ buddy Belt (voiced by co-director/co-writer Chris Sanders) jump into the film and offer inventive ideas and strategies in order to help the Croods find a new abode.
And like Guy and Belt, this animated film co-directed and co-written by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders is very creative and also takes full advantage of the 3D technology with action-packed races and thrilling road bumps along their journey.
The 3D effects are especially immersive in The Croods when new, vivid environments are uncovered and wild cross breeds are discovered. Everything is so well-drawn and easy on the eyes, that it all feels too real even if we realize this is a cartoon. The humans all have the usual traits of a cartoon character, but the detail in their skin and rough nature makes them believable – even if the line between being a neanderthal and being virtually invincible is non-existent.
The fun really takes off when we recognize the objects Guy thinks up as he constructs them out of the materials around him. Call him a prehistoric MacGyver. We see how fish could be used as slippers and how a shabbily created puppet can be used as a distraction. It’s this thinking in the script and how these creations are carried out that takes the story outside-of-the-box and makes it an innovative ride.
However, when the inventiveness is this strong, it’s easy for the strengths to cloud how tired some of the story is. Grugg likes the old fashioned way of living and doesn’t agree with these new fangled ideas that Guy conjures up. It’s a recurring theme of disapproving inevitable change and feeling left behind as everyone else accepts something new into their lives. This feels a little heavy-handed after the last of many of Grugg’s temper tantrums.
Also, a little of the Croods’ thick headedness goes a long way. It’s funny – namely a scene where the the family is dealing with their first encounter with fire – but when the jokes really pound in those lunkhead moments proving that this bunch may not be the sharpest stalactites in the cave, the deliveries become a bit too obvious in the writing and in the actors’ speech.
There are great themes in The Croods that young ones will pick up on and are appreciated from older moviegoers. Themes such as taking risks and problem solving are proper messages to include in a film aimed towards young ones who may be afraid of taking that plunge to try something new. These decisions lead to that creative mind that really makes The Croods tick and will surely inspire those young viewers to take more leadership roles.
And with that, those strong themes almost overshadow the elements that hamper The Croods, but not quite. The film’s inventiveness, taking more of a prominent role in the film over these messages, is always displayed with Reynolds’ Guy and the natural progression of the Croods. But still, those flaws in the screenplay can’t be covered.
The Croods may not be as great as most recent animated endeavours, but those positives sure make it an easy recommendation for families and fans of animation. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the inevitable sequel.