The Croods skews young as far as audience appeal goes. Three-to eight-year-olds will be entranced by the latest DreamWorks movie that urges them to not be afraid of change and to embrace new ideas. In other words, the future is coming, and there’s no reason to dwell in the past. In fact, staying stuck in the past might just get you killed. Overall, the film’s simple, unassuming story and visually appealing imagery will thrill young children and charm (or perhaps slightly bore) their parents.
The film follows a Neanderthal family (possibly the last one in existence) who are struggling to survive and are led by parents Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga (Catherine Keener), who raise their children — spitfire teenager Eep (Emma Stone) and slow-on-the-draw Thunk (Clark Duke) — to “never not be afraid” because fear is essential to survival in their disappearing world. The plan works for awhile, but times are a changin,’ and there’s occasionally good reason to bend the rules.
One fine evening, restless and rebellious Eep decides to stretch her legs (against her father’s wishes) and go exploring outside the family cave. She meets the more evolved (from a humanoid standpoint) Guy (Ryan Reynolds), whose best friend is a sloth. Guy not only gives Eep the warmies but also teaches her about fire and functions as a sort of prophet of doom. Guy realizes that the earth’s surface is changing, and volcanic activity will soon arrive and will wipe out the Crood family just like their former, fellow Neanderthals if they refuse to step outside of that cave and move to higher ground.
Following this fateful meeting, the Crood family (including a crotchety Grandma, voiced by Cloris Leachman) soon find themselves dodging natural disaster. With the family cave destroyed, the Croods have no choice but to begrudgingly place their faith in Guy, who leads them through various landscapes ranging from desert to forest. The ride is fun if not groundbreaking, and this movie echoes the appeal (as well as the historical leniency) of the Ice Age franchise in that the humor is broad, physical and slapstick-oriented, and the jokes are silly but not sophisticated, which is fine.
Clearly drumming for a franchise, The Croods may get there but not because it’s a particuarly good movie. It is, however, a decent way to babysit the chillens while parents mentally check out for awhile. The film is adapted from a story by John Cleese, so it doesn’t arrive without a certain charm and a kernel of wit that (sadly) gets lost in the mayhem of lots of sh*t flying towards the screen and towards our titular family, a Guy,
and a pizza place and a sloth. The story is threadbare and follows the family on their “roadtrip” as action quickly takes over and builds a steady momentum that somehow manages not to be obnoxious as it smoothly guides the film in a well-paced manner.
While both Ugga and Grandma get relegated to caricature as far as female characters go, young girls will love Eep, and their parents won’t mind since this character is not a poorly drawn doormat but a strong, willful, resourceful young lady who can also kick some serious ass. Adults will appreciate that Nicolas Cage reels in his usual exaggerated persona for the duration of the film. Nic is great in small does, but no one wants to see or hear him lose his shit in a kiddie flick.
The animation is a mixed bag. While the settings and landscapes are rendered beautifully, the characters look busted. Even though the neanderthals aren’t much to look at, the crazy assorted animals (piranha birds, cats colored like parrots, dogs that could double as crocodiles, whales with legs) are excellent targets for your gaze.
Ultimately, The Croods is a fun, harmless movie that carries a decent message (embrace change) and delivers the right amount of emotion even if the humor and story aren’t very sophisticated. If there’s a character struggle to be found at all, it’s between Grug and Guy and the effort to balance old and new ways of living. It ain’t rocket science, but it doesn’t need to be. The Croods will be back, so embrace the change and move to higher ground yourself.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.