courtesy DreamWorks

Film review: The Croods

This paleolithic animated film rises above the average fare

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The Croods is an immensely funny, very charming animated film from DreamWorks Animation and co-directors Kirk DeMicco (Space Chimps) and Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon). The film takes a while to get going — following one very entertaining chase sequence — but once it finds its comfort zone, The Croods winds up being one of the most enjoyable films released this year.

The plot is based off the tried and true premise of a family taken out of their comfort zone. Set in prehistoric times, the leader of the group is the father, Grug (Nicolas Cage). The Croods are the only family of cave people still around, as almost all others have died off. They have simple rules on how to stay alive: don’t go outside after dark, anything new is dangerous, curiosity kills and do everything together. This is fine with most of the family although, like many teenagers, Eep (Emma Stone) feels smothered by these rules and her overprotective father — she wants to explore and have freedom. One night, she escapes the cave and runs into a ‘modern man,’ Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who shows her fire and proclaims that the end of the world is coming. Soon enough, the ground starts breaking apart, forcing Guy and the Crood family to travel in hopes of finding somewhere safe.

There are more characters, but most are not developed well enough to actually matter. Apart from Grug being placed in direct opposition to Guy and the father/daughter dynamic, there’s not a whole lot going on between the characters, which is the main problem of The Croods. There are four other people in the family, and none of them get any sort of story arc or even a significant scene. There are occasionally some funny gags — the youngest child acts more like an animal than a human and the grandmother is far more nimble and spunky than might be expected — but that’s about all these characters accomplish.

Apart from minor characters being undeveloped, The Croods is an effective film, especially for its young target audience. There are bright locations, interesting animal hybrids — turtle-birds and alligator-dogs are among the most memorable — a quick pace, impending danger, a lot of physical comedy and a few memorable characters. Even the problem that DreamWorks films usually face — humans looking far worse than the animals — is almost nonexistent, as the cave people’s oafish appearance allows for a certain amount of caricature, even if animals still surpass them in design. The cave people are unsophisticated chracters so most of the humour is derived from the situations around them, their primitive nature and the way key lines are delivered by the voice actors.

It might not make sense to some people to see the infamous Cage cast as a caveman but, after seeing The Croods, it is a completely understandable casting decision. Cage knows how to play a father figure, and gets to do that often with this role. However, the amount of silliness, bordering on insanity, that his character gets to dish out is why Cage nails this part. He can make lines that should be dramatic absolutely hilarious, and this works given the tone of the film. Stone and Reynolds are less notable, but get a few key lines of their own. Supporting voices come from Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman and director Chris Sanders.

The Croods is a rock-solid animated film. What the film brings to the table is a lot of fun, a great deal of laughs and enough skill behind the animation to overcome the characters’ shortcomings. All in all, it’s a very good movie that people of all ages will be able to enjoy.