The Croods, titular stars of Dreamworks’ newest animated movie, are the most entertaining family of cavemen since The Flintstones. Living in a world filled with dangers, this prehistoric family doesn’t have the comical amenities that Fred, Wilma, Betty, and Barney enjoyed, but they do have heart and adventure in this surprisingly fun family movie.
As a caveman, Grug (Nicolas Cage) has a very basic understand of the world around him, and everything he doesn’t understand, he lives in mortal fear of. New equals death is his motto, and thus he keeps very tight control over his family as they eke out a spartan existence in the rocky fields and canyons around their cave.
The family includes mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone), the dimwitted-even-by-caveman-standards son Thunk (Clark Duke), the Tasmanian Devil-esque baby Sandy, and Cloris Leachman as the mother-in-law who’s continued existence is a thorn in Grug’s side. They steal eggs to survive, and huddle in their cold dark cave every night, ever wary of the predators lurking outside their rocky walls.
Not surprisingly, while the movie has plenty of action sequences and beautiful prehistoric visuals, at its core, The Croods is the story of a father dealing with his daughter growing up and yearning for independence. Tired of living in darkness and fear in a cave, Eep instead yearns for anything else. When she meets up with Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a more evolved homo sapiens, she sees there is much, much more beyond the cave, including the small matter of massive geological destruction that will literally tear their small slice of the world to pieces.
When the cataclysmic shifting of tectonic plates arrives, Grug is forced to take his family into a new and death-filled land. This new world is filled with colours, plants, and creatures of all sizes that are unfamiliar and scary, and Grug is constantly reminded by the smarter Guy that he’s just not able to come up with the same new ideas to help his family survive.
As the family overcomes obstacles and challenges on their way to the presumed safety of a tall mountain, they come to realize that there’s more to life than simply trying to survive, which naturally goes against everything that Grug’s limited brain can comprehend. It certainly doesn’t help that Guy’s creative inventions keep upstaging Grug’s efforts, making the caveman patriarch feel even more lost.
With a small cast of characters each is given plenty of opportunities to shine, yet amongst the movie’s young audiences it’s Guy’s sloth sidekick Belt who steals the show (and keeps his pants up). The unquestioned star though is Nicolas Cage, who is absolutely in his element as Grug. Ranging from loving to manic to completely unsure of everything around him, I want to say this is the role that Nicolas Cage was born to play, playing Grug with the perfect mix of rough exterior and honest emotions.
I’ll admit, sitting in the theatre with my five year-old daughter, I got a little misty as the relationship between father and daughter grew and evolved throughout the movie. Most modern animated movies try to tug at the emotional heartstrings, but it’s the rare one that actually succeeds. As with Toy Story 3, I imagine quite a few parents in the audience will have a similarly teary-eyed reaction.
The GamerPops Recommendation
The Croods is a pleasant surprise, an animated film for the whole family that has real heart to it, while also providing a lot of laughs and visual wow. Without giving anything away, the end of the movie definitely leaves The Croods in position for more adventures to come, and that’s definitely something I hope Dreamworks will follow up on.