'The Croods' hunts down humor, gathers great talent
05:00 AM, Mar 21, 2013
The Croods are no modern Stone Age family.
Led by the fearful, closed-minded patriarch Grug, they’re an animated version of early Homo sapiens, but they don’t drive rough-hewn vehicles, work at prehistoric factories or use bones for hair ornaments.
In fact, this clan of cave-dwellers tends to cower within stone walls. Fear has kept them alive, insists Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage).
As depicted in The Croods (* * ½ out of four; rated PG; opens Friday nationwide), these folks are a close-knit family. Too close-knit for Grug’s resourceful teenage daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), who chafes at the strict limitations imposed by her father. And frankly, Grug is a bit of a Neanderthal dunderhead. Cage plays the overprotective lunk with just the right notes it’s his best performance in a long time.
“Never not be afraid” is Grug’s double-negative reminder to Eep, as well as his wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke) and mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman). The couple also have a baby girl who just grunts, growls and groans.
The spunky Eep longs to see more of the world. As well she should, since the landscape they inhabit can be quite visually stunning. But she’s forbidden from leaving the cave after sundown.
Eep slips out one night and inadvertently meets fellow teen Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who’s roaming the world solo with a fearlessness that Eep admires. Reynolds gives Guy a lively, likable personality, and a PG-rated flirtation blossoms. Guy’s look is reminiscent of Hiccup, the young creature whisperer in How to Train Your Dragon, the charming 2010 animated feature also helmed by Croods co-director Chris Sanders. (He shares that duty here with Kirk De Micco.)
Eep is chastised by her dad for running off, but soon, Grug and the family have bigger problems. When continents shift and their cave is destroyed, the Croods must take off, covering strange and wondrous turf in search of a new home.
Along the way they encounter colorful hybrids of prehistoric animals. Their circle soon incorporates the nomadic Guy, whose bold ideas and more evolved brain threaten Grug’s limited worldview.
The plot suffers from an occasional formlessness and includes well-worn cartoon staples such as the cranky granny, the doofus younger brother and an adorable furry sidekick, Guy’s pet sloth, Belt (Sanders). The creature’s recurring singsong line will likely elicit the most giggles from the youngest viewers.
Grug and his Crood brood face up to their fears and learn to tackle the unknown and embrace uncertainty. The message of harnessing your courage, while still looking out for family, is a worthy one.
The family’s name may indeed be pronounced “crude,” but gross-out humor is thankfully kept to a minimum. Yes, they’re simple, strong and primitive, but not vulgar.
The use of 3-D has its imaginative moments, along with its more prosaic ones. The pace is brisk and occasionally slapstick, and some amusing situations stem from the cavemen displaying brawn over brains.
More than anything, the striking spectacle of primordial flora and one-of-a-kind fauna makes it easy for audiences to get pleasantly lost in the adventure.
The Croods clip: Shoes