Review: The Croods
PLOT: THE CROODS follows the adventures of a family of cavemen who find themselves in the midst of an ever-changing world. Afraid to leave the confines of their humble abode – a small cave – their oldest daughter comes across a stranger who claims that the world is ending. After a series of mishaps, the family is forced to follow this strange man and face a father’s fear of the big scary world that awaits them.
Once upon a time it seemed that PIXAR was the only game in town when it came to smartly crafted CG animation. Hit after hit they were creating some of the most impressive stories that not only children but their parents could appreciate. However, DreamWorks Animation has recently been stepping up and offering audiences some impressive competition. They continue that trend with their latest feature, THE CROODS, a rollicking and fun family adventure.
THE CROODS are a stone-age family that doesn’t quite live up to “The Flintstones” at first glance. We first meet them spending most of their nights and days hiding in a cave. The overprotective father Grug (Nicolas Cage) teaches his children Thunk (Clark Duke) and Eep (Emma Stone) that anything new is bad. The only time they leave the safety of the dark and gloomy cave is when they hunt for food. With the help of dear old mom Ugga (Catherine Keener) and her mother Gran (Cloris Leachman) as well as their animalistic toddler Sandy who simply grunts and growls and hunts – occasionally you’ll hear a baby sound – they must fend for themselves in a relentlessly dangerous world.
The first half hour of this family comedy is loaded with action as THE CROODS go on the hunt. They battle with an array of critters large and small and it is absolutely exciting. The animation is terrific even though The Croods themselves aren’t the most attractive family – they’re cavemen, so what can you do? However, the excitement wears a little thin in the beginning as you don’t get a real sense of these characters. Thankfully the well-chosen voice talent automatically adds a little warmth and heart, especially Cage and Stone. In fact, Cage is perfect as the frustrated and well-intentioned father figure who tries desperately to protect his family.
It isn’t until an outsider shows up that THE CROODS begins to come to life. When a mysterious fellow named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) shows up, the action and the comedy begin to truly work. Reynolds and Stone are especially good together as his presence moves the story forward while not losing sight of the fun. This hunky stranger warns the family of impending doom unless they follow the ever elusive sun. Keep in mind, they have no idea that the sun will rise and fall and rise again. Guy introduces them to not only his discovery of fire, but also the realization that even their safe and snug cave home isn’t so safe anymore. This is when THE CROODS opens up to its heartwarming potential.
By the final act I was fully invested in the film. It was easy to root for these characters as they struggle through a brand new world outside of what they have grown accustomed to. It is a big scary place but they begin to learn that you can’t avoid change and it is an enjoyable lesson indeed. With each new adventure, these characters grew a little and while it is not necessarily anything new, there is a strong message here about growing and not being afraid of the unknown.
Writer/director team Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco have crafted a lively family tale with a surprisingly emotional climax. Sure the story isn’t groundbreaking, but the animation itself is absolutely impressive. Even the 3D leaps off the screen at times with a few really fantastic shots that will most assuredly please the young ones. There is real magic here and thankfully THE CROODS continues to prove that DreamWorks Animation is beginning to make some truly inspired choices. There is a real spirit of adventure that develops in this charming and impressively exciting feature. This prehistoric tale may take a bit of time to really get going but by the end I was very happy to spend a little quality time with the other “modern stone-age family.”