Going into this one, I expected a cheap modern riff of The Flintstones with comedy reflecting the intentionally misspelled title. This family friendly cave-man tale ended up being a pleasant surprise.
Eep Crood (Emma Stone) is a neanderthal who wishes there was more to life than being hidden safely away in a cave by her father Grug (Nicholas Cage) with the rest of her family. Safe, but bored, she lives with her mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), thick-headed brother Thunk(Clark Duke), ferocious baby sister Sandy (Randy Thom), and ancient grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman).
Everything is going as smoothly as can be expected for a caveman family until slightly more evolved Guy (Ryan Reynolds) shows up bearing “belt,” fire, and the news that destruction is coming. Turns out this is the part of the story where Pangaea is about to go out of style. Despite Guy’s advice and Eep’s insistence, Grug decides that new is bad, old is good, cave is safe. Until an earthquake destroys cave, and in the process reveals an entirely new part of the world beyond the desert the Croods have called home. Soon, you guessed it – a road trip to
The Great Valley “Tomorrow,” where they will all be safe. But not before some adventures.
The animation is gorgeous. It may not be on the same level as some – read, Pixar – films in terms of shear detail and realism, but it is vibrant, lush, and lends itself well to 3D. The world created has definite echoes of Avatar’s Pandora with active plant life, and a variety of creative creatures that seem to be pulled from Avatar: The Last Airbender’s library of oddly combined animals. The story knows where it’s going at all times, and so do you, but at least it has a lot of fun along the way. A number of running gags including Belt’s antics and Grug’s annoyance that Gran is still among the headcount provide steady chuckles.
Overall there are two things that keep this from being a good looking piece of cardboard. The cast is great – just picture Nick Cage making Grug’s faces and grunts – and creativity is never lacking. There are some truly inspired moments and even the scenes with jokes that have been done a million times before – like giant popcorn explosions – still seem fresh in their approach.
The plot never delves too deep and lacks some of the complexities of other animated features (again, read Pixar), but at least it doesn’t feel weak or regurgitated. The moral of the story is simple as well – Family, good. Trying new things, good. Staying in symbolic (Plato’s) cave in the middle of a dessert where there is no food and things are trying to eat you, bad.
While Escape from Planet Earth benefited from being the first kids’ movie this year, Dreamworks has a real winner here with the second entry in that category that I have a feeling will help salve the wound that was Rise of the Guardians.
Mrs Hamster Says:
“Better than your average kids’ movie, The Croods is a lot more fun than I thought it was going to be. I especially enjoyed all of the creative animals and landscapes.”
My Rating: Four out of Five Hats
The Croods opens in 3,900 theaters, March 22, in 2D and 3D