The Croods Directed by: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders Cast: (voices of) Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman Running Time: 1 hrs 38 mins Rating: PG Release Date: March 22, 2013
PLOT: After their safe haven cave is destroyed, a prehistoric family (Stone, Cage, Keener, Duke, Leachman) ventures across new terrain to find a new home with a fellow human (Reynolds) as their guide.
WHO'S IT FOR? This is the first movie in a while that's actually for families of various age groups. It's not too dumb for adults, and it's not too scary for younger family members.
EXPECTATIONS: While I do try to be as neutral as possible on all films I get to see, I can't say I was walking too fast to get to this screening. What kind of humor could an animated caveman comedy offer? How many jokes about dinosaur feces would I have to endure? And why are these cave-folk, smiling on the sides of every bus in this city, called the Croods?
Nicolas Cage as Grug: A recording booth can only do so much to contain Cage's wildness, as his voicing of this dad certainly comes with the nuttiness (re: screaming, yelling) we expect from the actor. Cage has acted before for animated movies (who could forget him as the nasally literal mole in G-Force?), so this is nothing new. But, this different type of performance certainly services his Cage-y charm, and vice versa. Score: 5
Emma Stone as Eep: Very similar to what Cage is doing, Stone shows that her natural pep is a solid fit in a voicing role as well, especially with a character as acrobatic and excitable as Eep. Interestingly enough, while her character begins the family on this journey, she soon becomes only a side character to the male rivalry between her boy crush and her father (ooh, prehistoric Freud!). Score: 5
Ryan Reynolds as Guy: Like Chris Evans, Reynolds seems to have strong awareness of how to navigate his cheesy charm, which is something he puts to active use here with only his voice as a tool. Though his presence here is nothing special, the way in which he uses the lower parts of his serious voice in a couple occasions turns out to be worth a laugh or two. Score: 5
TALKING: The Croods abandons fairly early any attempt to stay within the period in regards to its crucial factor of dialogue. Instead, the movie makes many jokes with anachronisms, which might make the humor more accessible, but weakens the comedy's quality. For example, The Croods hopes to get a laugh out of someone using the phrase "fast food," or with Grug's invention of sun-blocking "shades." Score: 4
SIGHTS: The 3D in the film isn't really worth it, but the dedicated animation is nonetheless impressive. Once the film's title family move from their rocky homeland, they encounter a world of striking color, in which locations and fictitious creatures (made to be as cute as possible) give the film a beautiful palette. Even the editing of the film, always with its eye on a good transitional joke, has an inspired creative spirit to it. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Is that a marching band version of the song "Tusk" during the first food scavenging scene? Yes, it is. Along with this, The Croods also features a reasonably catchy end-of-credits song, "Shine Your Way," by otherwise forgettable singer Owl City & Yuna. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: I laughed really hard when that elephant far in the distance suddenly fell into the unknown. That's a great joke.
ENDING: Grug creates one of the most impressive contraptions I've seen in any movie, and earns this film its expected storybook conclusion.
QUESTIONS: Would it be possible to make a feature length animated movie about prehistoric times without using anachronisms? That's require a LOT of clever writing, correct?
REWATCHABILITY: Aside from various intricate animation sequences, there's nothing about The Croods that warrants a second viewing. However, if it were to be a contender for DVD night at your house (post Risk, of course), this wouldn't be the worst option.
Working from simpler times in history, The Croods is essentially a plain ol' family road trip comedy, with a lot of colorful nonfictional animals and landscapes as pit stops. Co-written by John Cleese, the film is certainly written with a tame comedian's brain, as it constantly tries to riff out as many gags from its creations. While the animated film isn't always very funny (maybe more than a quarter of the jokes work, and the rest feels fluffy), it does show to be more clever than the simpleminded ancestors it is focused on.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10