DreamWorks Animation has become something of a powerhouse in the world of animated kids’ films. They’ve already dazzled audiences with great projects such as “Shrek” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” two of the best animated films to come along in the last several years, and with several other entertaining works as well, including “Kung Fu Panda,” “Puss in Boots,” and most recently, “Rise of the Guardians.” For their next trip, they take us back a few million years to the prehistoric era, where life was a lot rougher and families were simply trying to live their lives day to day.
“The Croods” tells the story of a family whose lives are spent mostly in a dark cave, only coming out to get food every now and again. The head of the family, Grug (Voice of Nicolas Cage), is becoming increasingly concerned that his daughter, Eep (Voice of Emma Stone), is too curious about the world and that it may lead to her getting hurt. He’s always telling the family that anything new is dangerous and that they should always be afraid, but this is not the kind of life that Eep wants.
One night, after seeing a bright light outside, she leaves the cave to investigate and ends up meeting Guy (Voice of Ryan Reynolds), a fellow human who warns her that the world is coming to an end. Not long after, violent eruptions destroy their cave, forcing The Croods to venture out into a world that they don’t know much about. Eventually teaming up with Guy, they begin to make their way towards a mountain that just might be their last source of refuge as their world continues to change at an alarming rate.
“The Croods” is a touching animated film that not only entertains, but also delivers a sweet message about families and how change can be a good thing. When we first meet The Croods, we find them crammed in a cave most of the time with strict rules that, as Eep describes it, don’t allow for anything fun. She dreams of there being more to her life than this, so when Guy comes along, coupled with the destruction of their cave, it becomes the perfect opportunity to start anew, though Grug immediately gets it in his head to find another cave and continue their endless routine.
Who can blame either of them for sticking to their desires? Eep doesn’t see this as any way to live (“It’s not living, it’s just not dying”), while Grug has used the rules to keep his family alive all this time. True, they live in a very harsh world where just about everything around them is a potential threat, but even so, I think most people would see Eep’s point of view the clearest. Anyways, who would want to spend most of their time in a dark cave?
Not I, especially after the destruction begins, revealing the picturesque scenery nearby. Therein lies another of the film’s strengths. It’s quite beautiful to look at, assuming you see the film in the intended 2D (Do you really want to pay more to have the vibrant colors dulled?). Much of the film has the gang traveling through gorgeous landscapes and meeting strange, exotic creatures of all types. The designers really did a great job with the overall look.
As far as complaints, the only thing I would have to negatively criticize would be the ending, which felt as though it was too stretched out and random. The film only runs about 90 minutes with most of it having a strong pace, but when it came to the third act, the filmmakers took their time in getting around to the conclusion. This being a film for kids, you know you’re going to be in for a happy ending, but the way they got there seemed really strange. A little trimming and tinkering would have helped, but it’s a minor complaint for a film that works rather well anyway.
In the tradition of DreamWorks Animation, this is another film that can be enjoyed by both kids and adults. It doesn’t go for the split level of humor like “Shrek,” but there are amusing moments that both groups will get a good laugh out of, even if a couple of them are a little dark for kids. It may not rank among their best or most memorable films, but “The Croods” is worth a watch all the same.
Turning now to the specs, the film is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer that does justice to the brightly-colored animation. It's such a sharp and clear picture that you couldn't ask for any better. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is loud and lucid, making for a perfect pairing with the flawless video.
The special features included on the disc include the following:
- The Croodaceous Creatures of Croods
- Belt's Cave Journal
- Croods' Cuts: Lost Scenes
- Be an Artist: Draw Creatures from The Croods
Unfortunately, they really dropped the ball with these special features as most of them are strictly for kids. These include featurettes that look at some of the creatures seen in the film, a story told from Belt's journal, and a "how to" that has one of the supervising animators showing you how to draw some of the creatures. The only extra that's even slightly worth taking a look at is the "Lost Scenes," which is a set of four deleted scenes introduced by the co-writers/co-directors. It's semi-interesting in that they describe what they were going for, where they would have been, and why they took them out. The scenes themselves aren't anything particularly amazing, but as always it's interesting to see what was left out.
It's rather disappointing not to find a single extra having to do with the making of the film or any behind the scenes material whatsoever. There's not even a single interview to be found. However, despite this lack of special features, the film is strong enough to recommend on its own. This release makes it look and sound just as good as it did in the theater, and given that both adults and kids can enjoy it, there's more than enough reason to add it to your collection.
Now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Recent Blu-ray/DVD releases: This is the End, Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition, Redemption, A Letter to Three Wives, Disconnect, The Bling Ring, The Iceman, Star Trek: Enterprise - Season Two, Emperor, The Big Wedding, The Place Beyond the Pines, Oblivion
Now playing in theaters: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, A Single Shot, Blue Caprice, Jayne Mansfield's Car, Riddick, Hell Baby, Touchy Feely, Passion, The Lifeguard, Short Term 12, The Grandmaster, 2 Guns, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University
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This review is based on a copy of the Blu-ray received for reviewing purposes.