The Croods (2013)

The CroodsTired of life in her family’s cave, wildchild Eep (Emma Stone) ventures farther and farther from her ancestral home on the precious few occasions that she is actually allowed to go outside. Holed up with her overprotective father, Grug (Nicolas Cage), as well as her sympathetic mother (Catherine Keener), feisty grandmother (Cloris Leachman), dimwitted brother (Clark Duke) and feral younger sister, Eep dreams of adventure while everyone else around her prioritises safety and survival. When the cave is destroyed in an earthquake, however, The Croods are finally forced out into the real world where they form an uneasy alliance with modern man Guy (Ryan Reynolds).

The latest film from DreamWorks Animation, The Croods had a fair amount to live up to. From unbalanced beginnings, the studio has risen to become one of the biggest and most respected animation houses in the world, aided by a string of critical and commercial successes which have so far included Megamind, How To Train Your Dragon and Madagascar 3. It is also the first film to be released through 20th Century Fox, after last year’s Rise Of The Guardians marked the end of DreamWorks Animation’s partnership with Paramount Pictures. With three films set for release each year for the forseeable future, The Croods really needs to be a hit.

To both its credit and its detriment, The Croods doesn’t exactly feel like a new beginning for the studio. Drawing heavily from other recent animations, writer-director Chris Sanders (who occupied those same roles on How To Train Your Dragon) recycles a well-worn tale of misunderstood children and their outmoded parents that is at once reminiscent of Blue Sky’s Ice Age and Pixar’s Brave. Without the structure of Cressida Cowell’s source material to guide him, Sanders (in addition to his co-writer and director Kirk de Micco) has produced a story that is not only familiar, but often repetitive, too.

The problem boils down to the relationship between Emma Stone’s Eep and Nicolas Cage’s Grug; established early on as a rivalry between opposites — optimism vs. pessimism; exploration vs. conservation — their dynamic is never really developed further until the eventual resolution necessitates a climatic compromise. By the time the two finally come to blows, the arguments have already been made on a number of occasions, doing little to help the already drawn out finale — something which could have been avoided had only the filmmakers explored the various other inter-familial relations presented onscreen. As it is, the only respite we have from Eep and Grug’s familial feud comes in the form of Ryan Reynolds’ love-interest, Guy.

That’s not to say that The Crood‘s is a total disappointment; far from it. With every new film, DreamWorks more than any other animation studio have pushed the boundaries of 3D computer animation, and the results here are as breathtaking as ever before. Early scenes of Eep scaling a cliff-face induce actual vertigo, while the environments and creatures that fill them are among the most creative to grace the screen in years. Though never even remotely historically accurate, the animators have a lot of fun with the setting, creating an immersive experience that facilitates the suspension of disbelief far more than Scrat’s manipulation of plate tectonics by running across the Earth’s core. If only more children’s films attempted to dramatise the theory of evolution.

It’s also funny — often hilariously so — even if the gags don’t always serve to propel the plot forward. The narrative may go around in circles but the recurring jokes are more often than not up to the scrutiny. Sanders largely avoids the cutesy critters that plague other such films, with only Belt beginning to grate with his umpteenth “duh-duh-duuh!” There is a lot of humour to be found in the concept, which The Croods taps to great effect. Guy’s early interactions with the cavemen are very well observed, as his grasp of technology and logic put him in stark competition with Grug’s more reactive and ritualistic behaviour. Reynolds ultimately steals the film, his relationship to Grug in particular finding a nice parallel with contemporary generational differences that is immediately relatable, and novel enough to stand out as the third act sentiment is laid on thicker and thicker.

The Croods doesn’t reinvent the wheel, then, but it isn’t really trying to either (wheels are so next century). While structural issues and a lack of narrative focus prevent the film from meeting DreamWorks Animation’s current high standard, beautiful animation, a strong voice-cast and a some great comedy keep it from disappointing completely.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to The Croods (2013)

  1. Pingback: Ten 2013 Movies That Can’t Come Quickly Enough | popcornaddict

  2. Good review. I’ve not seen it yet, but I’m quite sure that it’s Merida from Brave living in Pandora of Avatar. It is good that better animations premiere this year 🙂

  3. Pingback: March 2013 – Drive it like you stole it! | popcornaddict

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