The number of escapist projects that Hollywood is showering the viewers with is skyrocketing. The technological advances that made artistic choices limited in the past have now opened up new opportunities for everyone in film, and it shows. The Croods is a perfect example, a 3D animation driven by constant action set in locations that are completely divorced from the world we are living in and fantastic to the point of no return (except for the unchanging moralistic messages and clichéd jokes). Recently Oz the Great and Powerful went there more or less successfully; now it’s time for directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders to do the same for the The Croods.
Grug (Nicolas Cage) is a patriarch of a Stone Age family the Croods, who have survived the dangerous world around them (unlike their neighbours) allegedly thanks to the philosophy Grug adheres to: strength is good; everything new is bad; look for adventures and you die. Therefore the family is stuck in a dark cave, with patient mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), daring daughter Eep (Emma Stone), thick-as-a-brick son Thunk (Clark Duke) and annoying but funny Gran (Cloris Leachman), as well as a very animalistic toddler Sandy, which is not a good combination of people to tolerate in such close quarters for such a long time. This produces tension, which Eep tries to overcome by seeking out the unknown, the dangerous, the interesting and forbidden, even if it’s just a ray of descending sun on her palm or a conversation with a stranger, who happens to be Guy (Ryan Reynolds), literally the family’s last hope in the face of the imminent apocalypse.
There are a lot of things going on visually in The Croods from earthquakes and explosions to flying piranhas and ‘bathing’ rituals, and some of that imagery is inventive (not to mention flashy, Avatar-esque and in-your-face). There are also many messages (follow the light, love each other, embrace change, fight fear, etc.) and conflicts (strength vs. intelligence, safety vs. inquisitiveness, old vs. new, etc.) here, none of which are explored enough for them to leave a lasting impression on the audience. The Croods is an entertaining ride and it won’t apologize for it.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is a full of jokes and action sequences from beginning to finish. The Stone Age paraphernalia and setting are both done well, with strange creatures and plants taking over the place. But there is nothing fresh here. From the characteristics of an independent, unruly proto-feminist girl (that we’ve seen in so many kids movies lately) to the repetitive jokes, nothing in The Croods is interesting enough for it to be a classic that you can and want to watch over and over again.
It is a little bit tiring to see movies where women are smart and men are stupid (even though it gives me a kind of pleasure to put those adjectives next to those nouns) as it is affirmed as a reversed stereotype, but a stereotype nevertheless. Overall, The Croods lacks the depth and insight some of the best animations have presented the viewers with (I am thinking of Ponyo, Up, Toy Story 3, etc.), and it won’t work universally well for all generations.
Verdict: The Croods is a family animation that can make the adults in the family enjoy the first viewing, but think twice about purchasing the DVD/Blu-ray (all the parents out there know what that means – press ‘Replay’ until someone in the family heads to the mental institution). But the kids will love The Croods and beg for all the toys and products that come with commercial vehicles like this. Not a keeper.