‘The Croods’ offers prehistoric family fun
“The Flintstones” will always be the essential modern Stone Age
But what if they were more family-friendly, expertly computer-generated and voiced by celebrities?
Meet “The Croods,” DreamWorks’ take on the prehistoric family unit. “The Flintstones” it’s not, but this brilliantly animated and often funny kids’ film is just the ticket for breezy, mostly harmless entertainment.
Directed by Kirk De Micco (“Space Chimps”) and Chris Sanders (“How to Train Your Dragon”), “The Croods” lacks the depth and multi-generational appeal of the stellar “How to Train Your Dragon,” but still manages to deliver a wholesome message that anyone in a family can appreciate, along with quite a few laughs.
The Croods are the last cavemen on the block, all their neighbors having been eaten, stomped or otherwise obliterated by the cruel, prehistoric world around them. As such, patriarch Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage, “Bringing Out the Dead”) has enacted a strict set of rules to keep his family safe – and hidden.
Encouraging them to “never not be afraid,” well-meaning Grug believes that fear will keep them in their place, namely the cave, and safe from harm. Although they effectively hunt and hilariously gather, nighttime finds the Croods piled together in their dark cave, with Grug telling cautionary bedtime stories about cavemen whose curiosity got the best of them.
These have little effect on teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone, “Easy A”), who sneaks out one night and encounters Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds, “Green Lantern”), a teenager from a distant tribe who literally carries a torch. Since this is Eep’s first encounter with fire, she’s captivated by the concept and somewhat smitten by her new acquaintance. Guy, however, is on a mission. The continents have begun to shift, leaving behind utter destruction, and the Croods’ neighborhood is next.
The remainder of her family – mother Ugga (Catherine Keener, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”), ornery grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman, “Young Frankenstein”), dimwitted brother Thunk (Clark Duke, “Hot Tub Time Machine”) and feral little sister Sandy (Randy Thom, “Ice Age: Continental Drift”) – are reluctant to leave, until necessity and rockslides change their minds.
With Guy in tow, the Croods are thrust into a new world, one in which they cannot hide safely in a cave, but rather move ever toward tomorrow – literally. Guy seems to think if they reach a distant mountain, they’ll all be able to hitch a ride on the sun into the land of tomorrow, which fits neatly into the film’s not-so-underlying theme.
As such, “The Croods” makes its message rather obvious, but easy enough for its younger viewers to digest – the importance of family and moving forward in life.
The film is definitely more kid-centric than some of DreamWorks’ previous efforts, relying more on slapstick and action to captivate its target audience, but there are still some treats for adult viewers, namely some brilliant set and character design.
The prehistoric animals, in particular, are a treat for the eye and funny bone, all clever hybrids of evolving species, like an ambling whale with legs and an ever-persistent jungle cat with owl-like features.
The 3-D treatment is a nice touch, but hardly necessary, as DreamWorks wisely avoided any gimmicky in-your-face special effects. This will ultimately help “The Croods” stand the test of time, even if it’s only playing in the backseat of a Chevy Tahoe decked out with those stick-figure stickers – a more modern form of cave art.
“The Croods,” rated PG for some scary action, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.