DreamWorks’ newest 3D animated release, The Croods, is a surprisingly heartfelt, yet unfortunately unfunny movie. Going into the film, I was under the impression that (considering the title) this movie would be a comedy with some mildly crude humor. Not an unreasonable assumption, right?
Instead, the very brief and infrequent moments of humor are often slapstick, like when Grug (the father of the Crood family played by Nicholas Cage) is crushed like Wile E. Coyote by a large boulder, yet is completely healthy in the very next shot. As for the other jokes, they are far too “kiddy” for a laugh, even for the room full of young children that I was in the theater with.
What this movie doesn’t have in humor and laughs though, it makes up for in animation as it’s a very pretty film to look at. It takes place in a prehistoric time when the Croods are the only cavemen left in the known world. The family sleeps/hides in a cave concealed by a rock every night and even during the day sometimes so that they won’t be killed by the interestingly imaginative creatures that roam the wild.
The animals in The Croods are all well-imagined and very appealing to the eye. These critters look like they’re from an alien world and each one has unique characteristics that make them visually appealing. While I had my issues with other elements of the movie (coming later in this review), throughout the entire picture I was genuinely impressed with the quality and beauty of the animation. This was augmented by watching it in 3D. Usually 3D family movies can be gimmick-y with their use of 3D tech. With the 3D in The Croods though, the animation comes alive and the vibrant and colorful world that the Croods live in pops off the screen.
Emma Stone stars as the main character Eep: a young girl who wants to see the world. Her father, played by Nic Cage, makes her stay in the cave and hide, rather than exploring and finding new things. The characters are somewhat flat because the only ones who really want anything are Eep and her father and their wants don’t extend past the things already mentioned. The other members of the family usually serve as rarely comedic backdrop and collateral for the perils of the plot.
There is a child in the family too, Eep’s younger sister Sandy, that has no spoken lines and is a savage, animalistic kid. She’s barely even a person and acts more like the family dog, which came across as a bit strange to me. That being said, the cast of voice actors is well-chosen, including Stone and Cage, and other seasoned veterans like Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman, and animation newcomer and The Office rookie Clark Duke. Unfortunately, the cast feels underutilized through the entire film due to the poorly developed characters.
In terms of the plot, we learn that the world is “ending”, but even in the opening narration sequence we are shown that what the characters repeatedly call “The End of the World” is just continental drift as the world separates from Pangea into seven continents. Because of the drift, the ground shakes and then splits to create enormous gaps at times.
These moments feel less like natural events and more like convenient plot devices used by the writers to push the barely-there story along. The characters are trying to somehow escape “The End of the World” by going to a place called “Tomorrow”, a thinly veiled metaphor about optimism. Tomorrow turns out to be a sunny beach paradise that is somehow exempt from the apocalyptic doom of the lands only a few miles away. It’s all pretty bland and ends up feeling like an uninspired rehashing of Littlefoot and co. trying to get to the Great Valley in The Land Before Time.
I didn’t get many laughs out of The Croods, but it was very pleasing to the eye. What you will find with this movie is a largely average animated children’s flick with some warm, fuzzy moments. Trust me, this is not a movie to go see with your friends for a few laughs, it’s more like the kind of movie you would take your 4 year old niece to and forget you even saw two weeks later.