Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom
I was lucky enough to score passes to a pre-release screening of The Croods in 3D to which I was escorted by my four year old niece. On a side note, as much as I love to see the coming attractions, the best thing about a pre-release screening is that there are no previews, but I digress. The Croods is a story about a prehistoric family that gets uprooted from the only home that they know, a cave in a gully. Grug, the leader of this caveman family, is continually trying to shelter his children as well as his wife (Ugga) and mother-in-law (Gran), from the big, wide world. Grug continually rebuffs anything ‘new’ and only allows his family to go out in the daylight to hunt about one day every week.
As we know, at this point in history, the world is still changing and growing from Pangaea into the continents that are present today. This change, unbeknownst to the Croods, is going to affect their lives dramatically. Eep, the oldest child and daughter of Grug and Ugga, is going through her rebel teen phase and wants more independence than her family affords her. As all teens do, she tests her boundaries and sneaks out of the cave one night after spotting a light in the darkness of night near their cave. She follows the light to its source and maker, a nomad guy aptly named Guy, who is accompanied by his incredibly cute sloth-like pet, Belt. Guy is certain that the world is coming to an end and that the area is not safe, and he bestows this information onto Eep before disappearing into the night.
No sooner is Eep harangued by Grug for taking off in the middle of the night do Guy’s predictions come true. The cave, that the Croods once called home, is decimated and they are thrust into a new setting of color and wonder. Left with no other choice than to follow Guy, the Croods begin a journey through the vast expanse of wilderness to a far and distant mountain. The Croods’ new world is interspersed with an adorable collection of animals from sea turtle-esque birds and ridiculously adorable blue monkeys to a huge sabertooth tiger-cat with tints of purple and green in his fur. Cue the first road trip in history, the discovery of the brain, and a number of brilliant ideas like shoes, stilts, and umbrellas that come from the mind of Guy.
It should be said that if you have a younger child that scares easily, this may not be a movie that you’d want to take them to see while it is in theatres. I enjoyed the pseudo-realism of how dangerous prehistoric life was and my niece is fairly acclimated to what is real and what is make believe. That said, The Croods is not short on darker themes of the the world coming to an end or imminent death. If I had to equate it to other movies, I’d say either The Land Before Time or Dinosaur.
The animation within the entirety of The Croods is visually stunning. It’s like your imagination come to life. The colors were never lacking as the animators seemed to use the entire palette throughout the film. The facial expressions of the characters matched with voice acting perfectly. If you look close enough, you could almost see the actors within the characters on the screen. While I’m particular when it comes to 3D, I think that it enhanced this movie rather than took away compared to other movies that I’ve seen in the format.
As for the voice-acting, all of the cast is lively, vibrant, and sincere. This also can be attributed to the fantastic writing by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (co-writers and co-directors of the film). I haven’t had a lot of love for Nicolas Cage over the past number of years, but he may have just won me back with his emotionally-charged portrayal of Grug. Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds play off each other almost perfectly, but I was disappointed in the lack of use of Catherine Keener as Ugga.
Summary: Most people that watch The Croods are going to have the same opinion that I had, which was that of “this story has already been told and re-told plenty of times already.” Given that the original draft of this movie, which was written by De Micco and John Cleese, is close to a decade old, I think it was just beaten to the punch. The tale is neither rushed or hurried along which allows us to experience the journey right alongside The Croods. With beautiful scenery and a heartwarming story, this is definitely a movie that you could watch time and time again.
Pros: Vibrant art, Passionate performances, Heartwarming story.
Cons: For an ensemble cast, it seems that a few characters were underutilized.