Patching together elements from other popular movies that have come before it, The Croods (opening today), still manages to be passable family entertainment.
Part Little Mermaid, part Lord of the Rings, The Croods focuses on family. With an animated opening that sets up the story via cave paintings, we learn that it wasn't all that easy to run a prehistoric family. Many other families have perished and The Croods - with overprotective dad Grug (Nicolas Cage), rebellious daughter Eep (Emma Stone), caring mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), brainless son Thunk (Clark Duke), animalistic toddler Sandy and "still alive" matriarch Gran (Cloris Leachman) - have learned to survive by strictly rejecting all that is new.
They live in a cave and go through life without much change. The story really is about the family as a whole, but the catalyst is the teenage daughter Eep, who must have been an early descendant of Ariel. She dreams about what life must be like outside of the cave and can't wait to bust free from her repressive parents.
That's when she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a mysterious drifter who knows much more about the world than Eep had ever dreamed. Guy sets the family on an adventure well out out of the cave as they journey to find a safe haven in a far away mountain resembling Middle-Earth's Mordor.
The Croods isn't overly hilarious, but it has its fair share of clever moments. It also is filled with dark and scary moments, perhaps more than you would expect from an animated DreamWorks movie with a PG rating. While the first half of the film seems to send all the wrong messages, by the end of the journey it is chock full of well-intended lessons for kids and adults alike.
Much of The Croods is harmless, if predictable, family fare. Most of it seems like stuff we've previously seen. Taking place in this prehistoric time period where we discovered fire, The Croods doesn't attempt to re-invent the wheel. But creatively, its so simple a caveman could have made it.
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Run Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voices of): Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke
Written & Directed by Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon) & Kirk De Micco (Space Chimps)
Opens locally on Friday, March 22, 2013 (check for show times).
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How to read Tom Santilli's "Star Ratings:"
- 5 Stars: Exceptional, must-see movie
- 4 Stars: Very good movie, not without flaws
- 3 Stars: The movie was just OK, leaves a lot to be desired
- 2 Stars: Pretty bad, a let-down, disappointing, but with some redeeming qualities
- 1 Star: Awful, sloppy, a total waste of time