It's hard to believe it's been seven years since The Croods captured the world's stone-aged hearts with a familiar but entertaining blend of imaginative animation, zippy humor, and an abundance of heart. The Croods are back, this time in The Croods: A New Age, a slightly more ambitious effort still flooded with jokey jokes and an even more abundant and winning heart.
This time, The Croods meet the Bettermans, a seemingly more evolved clan in pretty much anyway you could possibly think evolution would work. Including the fan favorite Eep (Emma Stone), the even more outrageous Gran (Cloris Leachman), edgy dad Grug (Nicolas Cage), the less edgy Ugga (Catherine Keener), the always trying to prove himself Thunk (Clark Duke), and sister Sandy (Kailey Crawford), The Croods still have Guy (Ryan Reynolds) hanging around even if he does seem to be aspiring to something better than the caveman ways.
That something better comes along in the form of the Bettermans - Phil (Peter Dinklage), Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran), and the rather insecure Hope (Leslie Mann) - a clan that likely resembles something closer to you and I than the more primitive Croods. With such "modern" conveniences as a makeshift elevator and a hilarious the first time spin on a television, the Bettermans do, at least initially, seem better in just about every way.
Of course, The Croods is a family film and those primitive cavedwellers have their names in the title so we know without a doubt there are going to be lessons learned here and an awful lot of hijinks along the way. The Bettermans will get the edge, but The Croods will also prove their cultural worth along the way.
We all need each other. Don't ya know?
The Croods is a frequently funny film, perhaps too funny for its good, but it's also considerably more ambitious than its predecessor under the direction of Joel Crawford. It's more than a little bit comforting to watch a film about getting along at a time in our American society when getting along seems so very difficult to do. If The Croods and the Bettermans can figure it out, why can't we?
The vocal work here is top-notch across the board, this quirky misfit of an ensemble cast perfectly weaving themselves together with heart and humor and creative yet family friendly antics. Both Emma Stone and Cloris Leachman truly shine here, Stone obviously having an absolute blast and Leachman going completely off-kilter time and time again. Stone also captures Eep's rather endearing qualities, a fight to live into her strength and also a desire for human, and even lightly romantic, connection. Nicolas Cage is appropriately edgy as the father who increasingly thinks he's losing his daughter, while Ryan Reynolds does what only Ryan Reynolds can do in terms of heart-filled sarcasm. Newcomers Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran are absolutely inspired with Mann, in particular, capturing Hope's blossoming confidence in surprisingly touching ways.
To tell you anything that really unfolds would be unjust, half the fun of The Croods: A New Age is watching it unfold with a storyline that's slightly more complex but still simple enough that the kids can definitely follow along but for the most part parents shouldn't get bored.
The DreamWorks animation is also up a notch here, a rather sumptuous garden where much of the film unfolds coming off as luxurious and immersive and just plain gorgeous. The original score by Mark Mothersbaugh features everything we've come to expect from a Mothersbaugh score with moments of eccentricity surrounded by beating heart and pleasant lightness.
The Croods: A New Age is opening up Thanksgiving weekend with both a digital and theatrical release. It's a film that easily justifies a bigger screen, though in a pandemic-infused world The Independent Critic continues to recommend you take care of yourself and take care of others.
In fact, when it comes down to it that's exactly what The Croods: A New Age is really all about.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic