Unless your kids are easily spooked, this end of the world should feel fine...
Grug: Nicolas Cage Eep: Emma Stone Guy: Ryan Reynolds Ugga: Catherine Keener Gran: Cloris Leachman Thunk: Clark Duke Sandy: Randy Thom Belt: Chris Sanders
20th Century Fox presents a film written and directed by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders. Rated PG for some scary action. Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes Release Date: March 22, 2013
Last summer, Ice Age: Continental Drift saw the cartoonish separation of the continents in a tepid, uninspired sequel to a franchise that's been on cruise control for its last couple of installments. Less than a year later, Dreamworks has (eight years after its announcement) released their take on the end of Pangaea. Thankfully, for audience of all ages, it's quite a bit more inspired than its prehistoric predecessor.
The Croods begins offering reminders of another 2012 animated dud, with a hunting scene serving up the same frustratingly frenetic pace used throughout Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. The kids may laugh at the number of big heavy objects that can be crashed into or dropped on your head in the Paleolithic era, but parents may roll their eyes and say, "Here we go again." As the nomadic Guy (Reynolds) points out later in the film, cavemen are supposed to be slow and sluggish!
Once the hunt is over, The Croods begin to act like it. Per the edict of Grug (Cage), the father and leader, the family spends most of their days hiding in a cave. Not hiding seems to have gotten all of the other cavemen killed off, so the Crood clan spends the majority of their days in darkness listening to Grug's stories of how anything new and exciting will get you killed.
Grug's daughter, Eep (Stone), has heard enough of the stories that they go in one ear and out the other. When Eep believes to see sunlight at night time, she leaves the cave and chases after it, only to run into the similarly-aged Guy (Reynolds) who is somehow aware of a pending apocalypse. He delivers the message just in time, as it's not too long before the Croods find themselves homeless and headed for higher ground.
Establishing "the world's first family road trip" is a longer process than it needs to be, but the film picks up once The Croods themselves do. Many will find plenty of laughs spread amongst the interactions between the more evolved Guy and his new caveman companions as they search to survive "The End". Guy also carries around a sloth named Belt (Sanders), who steals quite a few scenes (especially with his love of dramatic sound effects) and will make most of the audience's children want one of their own. The hateful banter between Grug and his mother-in-law (Leachman) should keep some of the adults laughing, although none of it's particularly inspired.
The relationships themselves - in addition to a slew of Up-like new creatures - are the most inspired part of The Croods and what make this a recommendable family film. The evolution (no pun intended) of Grug as a family leader and father carries the film's final act and Nicolas Cage does a terrific job lending his voice to the lead role. Even when there may not be another family in the world, a father just can't get away from letting his daughter grow up. While The Croods defy more than a handful of absurd scenarios, they tell a warm and often charming tale that make many of the movie's weaknesses forgivable.
The 411: Although The Croods starts off a bit slowly, it eventually turns into a surprisingly genuine, heartfelt story with a well-developed cast of characters. There is plenty of action and slapstick to keep the kids happy, with a few good laughs for the parents, as well. Not a classic by any stretch, but if the apocalypse themes don't scare the little ones too much, The Croods is perfectly acceptable family entertainment.