The Croods. (2013). Run Time: 98 mins. MPAA: PG (for some scary action). Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, and Clark Duke. Written by Chris Sanders & Kirk De Micco. Directed by Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders.
2012 was one of the strongest years for animated features in recent years. With the likes of Brave, which was good but undeserving of the Best Animated Feature Oscar™ it received, and the even better Wreck-it Ralph, Paranorman, and Frankenweenie, 2012 is no doubt going to a difficult year to top, despite the films drenched with potential such as Epic and Monsters University. Alas, we have reached the spark of the 2013 animated movies (disregarding the dumb and forgettable Escape From Planet Earth that came earlier this year) and it comes in the form of The Croods. Being released from DreamWorks, The Croods has had my attention since I first heard about it. DreamWorks isn’t just one of the most successful studios, but it’s also one of the best. They have their range, sure. Some movies aren’t great (looking at you Shark Tale and Monsters vs. Aliens), but a few of them are some of the best animated movies out there (think Chicken Run, Shrek, and How To Train Your Dragon). Now we have The Croods, a movie that is essentially The Flintstones meets Ice Age, a lesser quality version of the former but a higher of the latter.
I am certainly expecting good things from this years later animated features such as Despicable Me 2 and the previously mentioned Epic, along with Monsters University, which I’m trusting Pixar to not disappoint with that one. But as for now we have The Croods, and while it’s not a magnificent movie, it is certainly an entertaining ride from start to finish that never lets up and is sure to entertain kids and adults alike, as it did me.
Nicolas Cage, one of my favorite actors (and for all you film geeks out there I’m not saying he is one of the best because he chooses the worst movies, but I like them all because… well… it’s Nicolas Freaking Cage!!), voices Grug, father and leader of a Neanderthal family living in caves during the Paleolithic period. This family, consisting of Eeg, our main character and daughter of Grug, soon faces a startling reality when they realize there is something more “beyond that awful cave,” to quote Alfred in The Dark Knight Rises. When they are forced from their cave and sent to journey through the new world, led by a vibrant, intelligent, inventive, and confident Guy (yes, his name is Guy), the Croods soon discover what it truly means to live, and not just exist. With that plot, a strong cast is sure to follow, and it does. Nicolas Cage voices Grug, and while I naturally envisioned a more suitable John Goodman to voice the Fred Flintstone-like character, Cage does a very good job as it is, and he leads the film with a strong amount of stupidity, wit, and hilarity, and I found it to be Nicolas Cage at his most entertaining in a while. As Grug’s daughter and our main character identifier, Eeg is voiced by Emma Stone, and what a selection that was. I am a sucker for Emma Stone. I think she is the most adorable actress working today, and her voice was a perfect match for our adventurous and gutsy main Neanderthal, nearly every line flowing with unrestrained curiosity and magic. As Guy, the clichéd “cool guy” that tends to pop up in most animated movies nowadays but is actually essential here, Ryan Reynolds was definitely a fitting choice. His cool and seductive personality creeps its way into his character, and it’s a really cool vibe. As for the supporting cast, Cloris Leachman is the standout as the hated mother-in-law, providing a flood of funny lines. Along with her in the family, Catherine Keener and Clark Duke do some good work as well, wrapping up a strong set of talented cast members.
The animation in The Croods is nothing short of mesmerizing, and that is perhaps the best part of the entire movie. The opening credit sequences, which is done with a voiceover by Emma Stone, is very appealing and so is the text that reads The Croods, which is shaped by rocks and is one of the most creative openings I’ve seen in a while. Along with that, the animation throughout is simply staggering, ranging from the dirt and grime of the cave life to the beautiful exterior land life to the terrifying visuals of heated lava and magma. In the third act of the film, there are some explosions, and the fire and smoke that result are animated so well I am almost certain it will garner the film some Oscar nominations, definitely for Best Animated Feature. Since I did see the 3D version, as I always do if the film is in 3D, I will briefly address it. I am not a fan of 3D, mainly because it hurts my eyes and ultimately feels unnecessary. Now some movies use 3D to great effects, such as Avatar, Hugo, Prometheus, and Life of Pi, but in most cases of post conversion it feels underwhelming and pointless. Here, I feel the same way. It didn’t change anything about the movie, save a few cool uses with floating ash. I wouldn’t say don’t see it in 3D, but either way it won’t make much of a difference.
The screenplay for The Croods, by directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, is also very good. The story is certainly not original, it basically feels like the human version of Ice Age (let’s hope it doesn’t spawn numerous sequels), but for what it is, it is littered with much rational humor, and some very good one liners throughout. Being a movie taking place in a pre-historic era, the way this movie takes modern day concepts such as sports, homes, and pets and introduces us to their alternative origins is simply marvelous. Also, from the middle of the film on, there seemed to be a non stop flow of hilarious events, whether it be dialogue, actions, or natural occurrences, it just didn’t stop and it had me busting a gut consistently.
FINAL VERDICT: The Croods feels like a mix between The Flintstones and Ice Age, but in quality it is lesser in than the former, and higher than the latter. The voice talents show some care and give vibrant performances, and the film takes its content and has fun with it. When considering all the roads these filmmakers could have gone with this material, they fortunately succeed in making it a cute and funny movie that is guaranteed to keep children entertained and satisfy adults’ cravings for good animation, at least until Monster’s University. (B)