Monday, December 2, 2013

The Croods

Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco.
2013. Rated PG, 98 minutes.
Clark Duke
Chris Sanders
Randy Thom

The Croods are the last remaining family of cave people. They have managed to suvive because patriarch Grug (Cage) keeps a suffocatingly short leash on the whole clan. This includes his wife Ugga (Keener), his son Thunk (Duke), the baby Sandy, mother-in-law Gran (Leachman), and most troublesome, his eldest daughter Eep (Stone). She’s a free spirit who loves to explore her surroundings, much to her father’s chagrin. For him, the key to survival is remaining within the confines of their cave as much as possible. While out one day, she happens upon Guy (Reynolds), a more evolved human whom she finds dreamy. Guy tells her the end of the world, at least as they know it, is coming very soon. Sure enough, things start to change drastically and the Croods’ beloved cave collapses. Reluctantly, Grug agrees to go on the long journey to find a safe place to live. With Guy’s help, they try to make it to a mountain way off in the distance.

If you haven’t already guessed, this is basically an Ice Age movie with prehistoric people in place of animals. I’ll let you figure out which characters are equivalents. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The formula works well enough and enough things are draped over top of it to make this a fun ride. The family dynamic is fairly universal and the jokes about those dynamics are solid. In particular, the father-daughter relationship is thoroughly and enjoyably explored. The running gag about Grug secretly hoping his mother-in-law has finally passed away is morbidly funny. Jokes about the entire family’s lack of intelligence also work well. The action scenes give us both adventure and physical humor. It all comes together for a good time. And it never hurts that these things are gorgeously rendered.

Where The Croods sags a bit is not in the middle like most movies, but at the end. It draws out its inevitable conclusion for too long. It threatens to close on a dark note for quite a while. This would’ve been a shock welcome by me, but probably not for most parents or their kids. Still, it makes us wade through a less jovial section of the film that doesn’t quite work as it is intended because we have no doubt about how things will turn out. Instead of heightening the suspense it is merely delaying the obvious.

For the most part, The Croods is exactly what it wants to be: an adventure for the whole family. The kids won’t be bored by it and there are plenty of jokes that adults can laugh at. Honestly, my wife and I had at least a good a time watching this as our young’uns. Sure, dock it for being almost entirely derivative. How big a demerit that should be is up to you. Just know that what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in fun.

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