WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
The Croods are a prehistoric family who have seen their neighbours killed off by wild animals and live by strict code in order to survive the many dangers of pre-civilized life as cavemen. Croods patriarch Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) keeps his family inside their cave for most of the day, something which increasingly annoys his curious teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone). Against her father's strict rules, Eep ventures out of the family cave one night and meets a kindred spirit in lone drifter Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who warns the family that life as they know it is coming to an end.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
DreamWorks know a thing or two about making the kind of animated movies that both kids and their parents will get a kick out of.
So much of The Croods is reminiscent of the highly successful Ice Age, a franchise that comes from the same stable. With its lovable but rough characters, thrilling misadventures and unpredictability, The Croods is ace at telling a wild story with a heart-warming message at its core while never venturing too far below the surface. But, most importantly, this is a genuinely and effortlessly FUNNY movie.
Essentially, The Croods is perfect fare for young kids. Its vividly bright and kinetic animation of the landscape is stunning to behold as the Croods and their new friend Guy find themselves in a forest wonderland filled with weird and wonderful creatures.
The kids who were in the audience with me could not stop giggling throughout as The Croods directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders refuse to allow the energy to falter. The Croods, like Ice Age, is also a migratory story – the kind of road trip movie we are accustomed to – but with some clever creativity to work around the lack of modern day technology.
There is always a new peril or obstacle or curiosity at every turn for our reluctant adventurers to discover and it doesn't sit well with Papa Crood Grug – who is constantly wary having raised his family with such life rules such as "Never not be afraid" and "Everything new is bad". But Eep is different; she has more in common with contemporary teenage girls and craves new adventure.
Guy has a pet – a concept the Croods are quite unfamiliar with – a cheeky sloth he has named Belt because he serves that very function, keeping Guy's trousers up (they're as baggy as those seen on kids like Justin Bieber recently). He's got just one line, more of a catchphrase really, and is the kind of creation that screams merchandising magic. That he recalls the legendary WTF kitty on YouTube filled me with endless delight.
The Croods themselves are a rum bunch, with mama Crood Ugga (Catherine Keener) keeping her brood in check with a much softer touch, while her dim-witted son Thunk, feral baby daughter Sandy (who growls and is equal parts frightening and adorable) and the thorn in Grug’s side, his very aged yet very sprightly mother-in-law Gran (played by Raising Hope octogenarian Cloris Leachman).
The Croods does a great job at making the often combative dynamic between its characters drive its central message of family and embracing the unknown. Nicolas Cage is particularly effective in getting to the heart of Grug's conflict as he is slowly demoted from his position as the family’s protector and leader the more that Guy's fearlessness, "street smarts" and innovative ideas help keep the Croods safe and fed.
It's rather quite interesting to see Cage emerge as a more convincing as a father figure in films such as this and Kick-Ass than he ever did as a Ghost Rider.
What's a harder sell is the actually design of the Croods themselves, with their exaggerated cavemen features (wide, sloping foreheads, bulky build), possibly for comic effect, but they come off looking more threatening as a result, especially when they show off their physical prowess while out hunting. There is a much harder edge to their physical appearance which is somewhat at odds with the breathtaking beauty of their natural environment.
Rather than play in the same wheelhouse as Pixar, whose innovation has progressed beyond comparison, DreamWorks Animation has not been left behind and seem more geared towards building long-running franchises such as the Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and Shrek films.
The Croods' legs may be stumpy and hairy, but they're also deceptively quick and resilient. They've more than warranted your attention now and into whatever future DreamWorks have planned for them.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: