Remember when I said that something seemed mixed-up about the animated movies Brave and Wreck-It Ralph, where it was Pixar that gave us the bland and unoriginal princess film, and Disney that gave us the smart and creative adventure flick? Well, the current situation seems uncannily similar. I mean, here’s Dreamworks doing a stupid comedy about prehistoric creatures while the adventurous Fantasy picture, Epic, is getting released by Blue Sky.
Basically the studio that gave us the delightful How To Train Your Dragon has practically switched places with the studio that gave us the dreaded Ice Age: Continental Drift. Their new film is called The Croods and is it as silly and uninspired a film as the majority of adverts make it out to be? Let us examine.
The plot revolves around a Neanderthal family called The Croods, consisting of father Grug (Nicolas Cage), his rebellious teenaged daughter Eep (Emma Stone), his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), his son Thunk (Clarke Duke), his crazy mother-in-law (Cloris Leechman) and their hilariously ferocious baby girl. They lead your average caveman’s lifestyle, but Grug has ordered that his family avoid discovering new things, fearing it will lead to their destruction. Eep, however, is curious and wants to learn all these new things. One night, whilst her family slumbers, her curious nature ends her up in the presence of a more developed caveman, who shows her such fascinating concepts as fire, tools and the so-called “pandering to fangirls” design.
His name is Guy and he is voiced by Ryan Reynolds. He fears that the world is coming to an end and when signs begin to emerge that it might indeed be happening, the Croods are eventually forced to leave their home and join forces with Guy in order to explore the world and find a new way of living. We get a lot of slapstick, a lot of interesting pieces of animation and an obligatory romance between Eep and the guy named Guy, much to the dismay of the protective Grug. Oh and there’s a funny sloth in there too along with some cave-sliding and references to the Pangea Break-up. Yeah, did I mention this film is kind of like Ice Age?
Indeed, the film even feels an awful lot like some of the more recent entries in the Ice Age franchise, almost eerily so, with all its fast slapstick comedy and funny extinct animals. However, its sense of humour doesn’t venture completely into Lull Destruction territory, as it does provide some quiet moments built around emotion, visuals and the facial expressions of the characters. One of the most fascinating and enjoyable scenes to look at is the scene where Eep meets Guy and she discovers the concept of fire for the first time in her life. Some very nice animation and visuals right there.
The visuals, in fact, is one of the things that the film most certainly has going for it. The imagery in this film is something which one could sit and gaze upon for hours straight. The team that gave us the story and characters has actually been almost as skillfull in their department as the team that created the film’s visuals and designs, but there are some things I thought was missing. As much as I enjoyed the Croods and the way the reacted to Guy’s various tricks and inventiones, I would have liked to have more focus on the rest of the family members, whereas it is mostly on Grug and Eep. It’s not always just them, sure, but it could still be a bit more balanced.
The design of the new world which our heroes discover, as well as its creatures, is imagery that would even make James Cameron jealous. There came multiple moments during The Croods where I stopped believing this film was in any way set on a prehistoric Earth. This must be taking place on another, far more likable planet. Even if our world truly looked like this at any point in its existence, well, I find that difficult to believe.
Does The Croods have issues? Well, yeah, it does. Some big and some small. Some of the actions go over-the-top, some jokes don’t work and sometimes “the overly protective dad” storyline feels redundant. But I still recommend it because of its inventive imagery, wickedly creative designs and enjoyable character moments. Had the film been smarter and felt less like an Ice Age copy, I might’ve given it one of my higher ratings, but as it is, a 3/5 seems more fair. I had a good time watching it either way, and that is far more than I expected. It shall be interesting to see if Epic upstages it or not.
Oh and I saw the original English dub of this one, as it were. Hearing Nicolas Cage do caveman screams; what more do I need to say?