Movie Review: “The Croods” – Not All That Gude

Written by Travis Pulchinski March 26, 2013


Does it seem to anyone else that kids movies are devolving over time?  It might just be because I was spoiled as a youngster to have been raised in the new golden era of animated kids movies, with Pixar films like “Toy Story”, “The Incredibles”, “Finding Nemo” and “WALL-E” and even some decent Dreamworks animated movies like “Chicken Run”, “Shrek” and “The Road to El-Dorado”.  I can watch any one of these movies today and still enjoy it, and not simply out of nostalgia.  They’re imaginative, original and just plain cool.  With that in mind, I just cannot imagine anyone ever looking back with fond memories on a childhood spent watching Dreamworks animation’s “The Croods”.

“This is called a brain. I think that’s where ideas go.”

“The Croods” is about a family of cavemen, all with predictably grunt-derived names like “Grug” and “Ugga”, who live in a cave (duh) in a perpetual state of terror at the dangers of the prehistoric outside world.  Only the family’s headstrong and rambunctious daughter Eep (Emma Stone), is unsatisfied with her reclusive lifestyle, longing to explore and feel the sun on her long, untamed red hair.  Sound familiar?  Don’t be silly, this movie is nothing like Pixar’s “Brave”, because Pixar at least still has some shreds of ingenuity left, or at least they used to.


The comparisons to Brave can be thrown aside as soon as Eep runs into a handsome, teenaged Caveman named Guy. Because what Pixar understands and Dreamworks apparently does not, is that there is no better way to completely de-value a strong female protagonist than to reduce her to a fawning, doe-eyed admirer of a charismatic male.  Guy (Ryan Reynolds), is a representation of the larger-brained homo-sapien group, which while technically making him a different species to Eep (yuck!), also means he can come up with neat ideas like fire and shoes that help the family on their flight from shifting continental plates.  Because yea, Pangea just broke up over night.

I know, it’s a kids movie.  I’ll relax.


Survival of the Fittest

So once Eep’s role is reduced to a simple inamorato of the big-brained Guy, the focus of the narrative shifts to Grug, the group’s strong but simple-minded father, wonderfully voiced by Nicholas Cage.  Grug suddenly finds himself as the sixth (as-of-yet-uninvented) wheel, his role of alpha male and protector negated by Guy’s intelligence.  His identity crisis and eventual reconciliation are functionally executed and somewhat compelling, but it begs the questions as to why he wasn’t the central focus of the narrative from the start.  The rest of the group serve as one-note comedic archetypes, from the big dumb son, the squeaky-voiced cute companion creature, the miraculously resilient granny and the… motherly… mother.  All are well voiced by fitting voice actors, including Catherine Keener and Clark Duke.

While the dialogue is only sporadically funny and the frenzied nature of the spastic storytelling is almost exhausting to process, the animation itself was definitely a standout.  Varied glorious and colourful landscapes are rendered in truly beautiful style, each distinct and with its own attitude and colour palette.  Likewise, the cornucopia of wild prehistoric creatures the Croods encounter are imaginative, if completely historically inaccurate.


“Never Stop Being Afraid”

The incredible irony with “The Croods” is that the central theme of the story preaches adventure, taking risks, trying new things, not playing it safe, and yet this is precisely what this film does.  It stays cooped up within the rhetorical cave of the tried and true, not trying to wow but rather simply to appease.  And to this end, it succeeds.  There’s nothing disastrously wrong with “The Croods”, and hey, it’s March.  But this latest effort from Dreamworks is likely to go forgotten, leaving no lasting mark on the walls of cinematic history.

My Rating: 6/10


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