VOCAL WORK BY
Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds, Chris Sanders, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, Randy Thom
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco
The Croodaceous Creatures of Crood; Belt's Journal; Lost Scenes; Be an Artist; Theatrical Trailer; Sneak Peaks; World of DreamWorks Animation; DVD Copy; Digital Copy
There's a pretty good chance that you know what to expect from the DreamWorks animated feature The Croods.
You probably expect The Croods to feature about 90-minutes of family friendly entertainment with occasional doses of pop culture references despite its paleolithic plot line.
You'd be right.
You probably expect The Croods to have fundamentally good characters learning fundamentally valuable life lessons while enduring serious yet kid friendly life lessons.
You'd be right.
You're probably expecting The Croods to have a few "aw shucks" moments along with a few laughs and the obligatory character who is irresistibly cute and will have the young kids mimicking them as they exit the theater.
Oh, how you are right.
You know what to expect from The Croods and you'll get what you're expecting from the film, for the most part, and for the most part not a single thing more. There's really not an ounce of originality or brilliance to be found in the film, but this PG-rated adventure is easygoing and good-hearted enough to please most parents looking for a way to keep the young kids happy this weekend.
The Croods, in case the trailer hasn't made it obvious, is about a rather crude family (Please tell me you got it before now?) whose primary way of surviving the stone age has been to be safely afraid of anything and everything. Papa Grug (Nicolas Cage) means well and is absolutely certain that his family has outlived the vast majority of others because of a healthy dose of fear and a willingness to not experience anything new. The family includes his wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), his hilariously inept son Thunk (Clark Duke), grandma Gran (Cloris Leachman), baby Sandy (Randy Thom) and daughter Eep (Emma Stone), a teenager who has grown weary of the family's avoidance anything resembling actual life. When Eep escapes the family cave for a little adventure and encounters the far more adventurous Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is convinced that the earth is getting ready to experience a drastic change, the stage is set for a family that may very well learn that if they don't change they won't survive.
To their credit, co-writers/directors Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco do manage to keep the pop culture references fairly light and appropriate with the exception of the film's almost undeniable similarities to a certain James Cameron film of not so long ago. The film does, however, follow a fairly paint-by-numbers path in telling its story. While references to The Flintstones are probably inevitable, but the film actually owes more of its tone to the early cartoon era with its broadly drawn violence and hyped up slapstick adventures. There were early scenes in the film where I hadn't quite gotten into the rhythm of what was going on, especially once Guy enters the picture, and the film's hyper-stylized violence and playfully dangerous mayhem seemed to be a bit jarring. An example of this would be a prolonged scene involving Guy's discovery of fire, a discovery that creates a realistic curiosity among the others yet is filmed with such a playfulness that I found myself wondering if it might create an unhealthy curiosity among kids in the audience, as well.
Maybe. Maybe not. It might be a good idea to monitor your kids' conversations on the ride home, because the scene certainly isn't reason enough to rule the film out.
The vocal work is fine, if not particularly memorable with the exception of a character named Belt, who looks like a Lemur (some kids might say ferret!) and is far and away the most adorable thing about the film. With a rather obvious function in Guy's life, Belt also proves to be quite the comic sidekick. The character is voiced by Chris Sanders himself, and it's hard not to imagine him having an impact along the lines of Ice Age's Scrat.
While the overall tone of The Croods is very pro-family, there were a few occasions when the film crossed the line and felt just a touch mean-spirited, especially towards Gran. We hear, especially early in the film, that Gran has clearly outlived her time and function though this attitude certainly changes by film's end. On the other hand, The Croods has a lot of fun, some of it rather obvious, with the origin of various familiar items such as the aforementioned fire, shoes, belts and other familiar "stuff" that even the kids will recognize.
The Croods is a good film with occasional pacing issues, an unexplained and fairly vaguely presented threat and a storyline that occasionally felt like Avatar and occasionally felt like a family friendly Melancholia. The kids will likely enjoy the vast majority of the film with occasionally moments of fidgeting and boredom, though there was little in the way of story immersion or special effects to justify the extra cost of the 3-D experience.
The Croods certainly could have been better, but with ample doses of heart and humor it's certainly not the end of the world.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic