‘The Croods’ is a family friendly, action-packed outing from the increasingly impressive DreamWorks Animation. The film builds upon the formula set forth by Pixar: quality animation with a smart, emotional appeal that captures both parents and children.
‘The Croods’ are a neanderthal family of six (including a mother-in-law), headed by a very protective father, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage). Grug simply insists that the entire family spend as much time as possible, day after day, in a dark cave in order to survive any (read: *ANY*) potentially threatening elements in the environment, calling to them “Never not be afraid!” Although the family seems very poised to defend themselves against predators with their stereotypical neanderthal features (heavy-set build, extreme strength), its members all follow Grug’s regular call for self-preservation-- except for curious teen daughter, Eep (voiced by Emma Stone). Eep constantly questions the meaning of the family’s life within the cave and feels a constant pull to explore and learn as much as she can about their world. Sneaking away from her family one night, Eep encounters her first modern “guy,” named appropriately, “Guy” (the deep-voiced Ryan Reynolds), and first sees ‘his’ magical invention of fire. Solitary Guy warns Eep of the impending continental shift, and when the family’s only-known home, the cave, is soon destroyed, Guy must help lead the family into the wilds of what is becoming a new world. And, of course, Guy’s presence challenges Grug’s former dominance over the family and his relationship with his independence-seeking daughter.
DreamWorks Animation has rendered a beautiful 3D world with ‘The Croods,’ some of which is even reminiscent of the revelation of Oz in ‘Oz the Great and Powerful.’ The family’s brisk adventures throughout the new world demand quick changes in family dynamics as well as the cultivation of a new characteristic: hope. Venturing outside of what they have known (and documented on the same cave’s walls) and into the light of day, eventually allows the family to try to have hope for a better life, hope for improvements and inventions, and hope that their children might be able to imagine and achieve more than was ever possible before they left the darkness.
The film relies on gags galore and adventure-after-adventure, which can get a bit repetitive after an hour, but the film redeems itself in capturing some surprisingly heartfelt moments between Grug and Eep, as she struggles to gain independence. ‘The Croods’ also has a few dark jokes aimed at adults about death and survival in a hostile world (jokes that are still family-friendly), and one wonders if some of the more unusual, but funny, jokes were left over from a development of the original script by John Cleese of ‘Monty Python’ fame (who now retains only a ‘story-by’ credit).
In all, ‘The Croods’ is not Pixar perfect, but DreamWorks Animation has created a very engaging, fast-paced 98 minutes that can be easily enjoyed by the whole family. It is rated 4 of 5 (‘recommended’) stars.
‘The Croods’ is rated PG for some scary action.
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