Even though things are apparently so easy a caveman to can do it, everything leading up to The Croods left me skeptical that animated movies were something they could tackle. With expectations set low, The Croods could only go up from there.
Better than expected; that’s a compliment, right?
In this case, it definitely is considering I had already written the film off, with the opening scenes seemingly cementing my expectations into place. I just couldn’t connect with this cave family that cowered in the depths of the mountain wall at night for fear of the unknown, only to go out during the day like a full blown, battle-ready football team on the hunt for a meal to satiate their bellies during the wait for the next daybreak. Seriously, they’re terrified of everything that might lead to death, yet they let their baby girl run around and attack animals in true “release the cracken” fashion? How does that make sense?
And what the heck was up with all the creatures in this world? I was so excited for the setting and story based on Earth’s real history, but this selling point only makes it more noticeable when things don’t fit. For example, we come across a creature that basically just looks like a humpback whale with stubby legs. As ridiculous as this looks, it does play off the fact that life on land crawled out of the oceans. Passible, sure, but this doesn’t work for the number of chimeras littering the land. Almost every single animal is a blend of two separate creatures, such as a giant cat and an owl or a dog and an alligator, and though this could just be the designers extremely playful look at evolution, it was just too outlandish for my adult sensibilities that understands that this isn’t quite how evolution worked. Don’t even get me started on that monkey with one tail connecting two bodies! The number of new, made up species was just too overwhelming at the start.
The setting of The Croods takes a creative look at a story that most children won’t understand what’s actually being depicted as Pangaea is ripped apart in a rather dramatic showing of molten explosions at the family’s backside. This forms the motivation of the family to leave the confinements of their safe haven after it is crushed, going on a old-school family road trip full of bickering. Eventually it all starts to get better as they pick up a hitch hiker, Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), who is easily the main saving graces of this film as he breathes new life into the dynamic, both in line reading and simply because of his character. He plays the next step in human revolution past the cave family that is simply crude to him. See what I did there?
This dichotomy adds more humor to the mix that wasn’t quite working with just the family as he adds a “what the heck is wrong with these people?” view more so in tune with the audience, and I will admit that I was easily charmed by Belt, Guy’s sloth/monkey creature that was there for both comedic music cues and to hold his buddy’s pants up. Emma Stone voices the rebellious daughter within the Crood family who is mesmerized by Guy as he provides an out for her lack of satisfaction with what her life has to offer, but this “love” story doesn’t have too much to offer past a few good laughs at her actions that lead us to believe she would club him over the head and drag him back to her cave, sort-of-speak, if she had one to go back to. Instead Guy’s relationship to the whole group is far more fulfilling to the story. Nicolas Cage and Cloris Leachman also have a few good bits as his motivation to get her killed is the one thing pushing him from his fear of venturing out, though Cage and Reynolds also have some good scenes worth mentioning.
I was never fully able to get past my problems with the film’s representation of this time in Earth’s history, but somehow they did become less prominent in my mind as the Croods started enjoying their lives because I was enjoying where this adventure was taking them right along with them, thanks to the relationships between the characters with the addition of Guy. Based on how I felt at the beginning of the film, I was more than surprised by how emotionally attached I was at the end. So what have we learned? More Ryan Reynolds.
Final Grade: B- Follow @BewareOfTrees