The Croods


Nicolas Cage as Grug (voice)
Emma Stone as Eep (voice)
Ryan Reynolds as Guy (voice)
Catherine Keener as Ugga (voice)
Cloris Leachman as Gran (voice)
Clark Duke as Thunk (voice)
Chris Sanders as Belt (voice)
Randy Thom as Sandy (voice)

Directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders

“The Croods” is a pleasant surprise that features imaginative production design, a funny story, and excellent voice acting by Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, and Nicolas Cage.

Grug’s family is the last of the Neanderthals. All of the others have been killed off by wild animals, disease, or other horrible things. But Grug has kept his wife, kids, and mother-in-law safe by keeping them hidden in a cave, never venturing into the unknown, and fearing anything and everything.

While that keeps the family safe, it’s not a terribly satisfying existence for Grug’s young daughter Eep. She longs to explore the world, follow the sun, and live life to the fullest. Eep’s world is changed when she runs across a young man by the name of Guy. He is new, different, full of clever ideas, and most important of all he has created fire. Guy warns Eep that the world is about to end. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and lava are about to destroy their land. He urges the family to follow him to safety.

At first Grug wants nothing to do with Guy or his new ideas, but the family is quickly forced to go on the run because of a massive earthquake. They find themselves in an utterly alien environment filled with new wonders and dangers and Guy as their only guide. Grug soon feels threatened by Guy leading the family, his strange ideas, and him winning the affections of his daughter, but will Grug stubbornly cling to his old ways or adapt and help the family survive?

“The Croods” is rated PG for some scary action.

What Worked:
I have to admit that nothing about “The Croods” seemed that interesting to me. It had a cool 3D poster in the theater, but beyond that it wasn’t on my radar at all. So I was a bit surprised by how much my family and I enjoyed it. From my wife and I to our teenage daughter to my two young sons, we all really liked “The Croods” a lot. It was one of those rare family films that the entire family actually enjoyed. It certainly sets the bar high for other animated films this year.

First of all, the production design is quite imaginative. This is set in an alternate world filled with animal species, plant species, and topography that never existed, but the animals are mixtures of creatures we are all familiar with. There’s an owl mixed with a snow leopard and bear. There’s a turtle mixed with a parrot. There’s an elephant mixed with a mouse. (Anybody remember “The Wuzzles” from the ’80s? Think that.) The end result is a bunch of funny and imaginative creatures that would be at home anywhere in “Star Wars” or “Avatar.”

The film also has some pretty spectacular action sequences. The tone is set early as we see the family trying to steal an egg for breakfast. It soon escalates into a football game that then escalates into a high speed chase and eventually into a truck / mammoth chase. It’s as good as any action sequence on the big screen this year. That high adrenaline action continues on as the movie progresses.

“The Croods” is surprisingly funny, too. Think “The Flintstones” crossed with “The Simpsons” and you start getting the idea. I think if “The Flintstones” had been rebooted today, this might have been the result. Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (the man responsible for “Lilo & Stitch”) never forget the fact that these are cavemen. They smash each other with rocks. They don’t know how to deal with fire and when they do get it, they have disastrous results. The baby in the family is basically feral. Their crudeness (get the title now?) provides a lot of laughs.

The voice cast is also fantastic. Emma Stone has had a little voice acting experience in the past, but this role proves she was born for it. Little touches to her voice really help take the animation to the next level and bring the character of Eep to life. Ryan Reynolds also did an excellent job. Looking at his filmography, this seems to be his first real animated role, but he knocks it out of the park. He frequently plays Guy as the straight man to the Croods’ antics, but he also generates a lot of laughs on his own (especially as he’s paired with his sloth named ‘Belt,’ voiced by Chris Saunders). Then there’s Nicolas Cage as Grug. He has done plenty of voice acting in the past, but this Fred Flinstone role really suits his over-the-top style. He makes a lovable dad and a lovable Neanderthal. Supporting them are Catherine Keener as Ugga, Cloris Leachman as Gran, and Clark Duke in a great performance as Thunk.

The music by Alan Silvestri is also noteworthy. He managed to sneak a few familiar themes into the score like Fleetwood Mac’s “Just Tell Me You Love Me” in the egg stealing scene. Owl City and Yuma also deliver the end credits song “Shine Your Way,” which will probably be remembered around awards time.

I’ll also mention that “The Croods” makes excellent use of 3D in the animation. Characters and animals constantly fly out of the screen. Eep is also seen scaling tall cliffs and trees and the 3D adds to the feeling of height and jeopardy for the character. Seeing it in 3D is worth the extra cost.

What Didn’t Work:
I have no real complaints about this film. I think it was well executed from top to bottom. Grug’s constant battle with his mother-in-law felt a bit stereotypical, but it’s easy to get over.

My only other concern is that the marketing may not have been enough to pull audiences in. Let’s hope it gets good word of mouth among families and animation fans.

The Bottom Line:
“The Croods” is a lot of fun for adults and kids alike. Saunders continues his magic from “Lilo & Stitch” and the end result is a film that everyone can enjoy.