The Croods Review
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In recent years, DreamWorks Animation has stepped up its game, producing noteworthy animated films like the imaginative Rise of the Guardians and the playful Madagascar 3. But if the studio wants to continue to give the House of Mouse a run for its money (and its Oscars), it’ll need to work on its consistency—cranking out more clever adventures like Rise of the Guardians and fewer aimless caveman comedies like The Croods.

The film follows a family of cavemen on a life-changing expedition. While most cave families have met an untimely end at the hand of some kind of prehistoric beast, the Croods have managed to survive because of their family motto: “Never not be afraid.” Their lives are spent hiding out, huddled together in their dark cave, waiting for a safe moment to hunt. It’s helped to keep them alive—but, as teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) points out, it’s not really living.

One day, everything starts to change for the Croods. Eep meets a young man named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who explains that the world is coming to an end—and they all need to travel to a distant land to escape the coming devastation. But that will mean getting out of the cave and going on an adventure that could either kill them…or save them.

With its directionless story and its silly, slapsticky humor, The Croods is about as smart and sophisticated as its characters. From the very beginning of the film—with a lengthy opening hunting scene that’s designed to look like a prehistoric football game (complete with a marching band score)—it’s pretty clear that the film isn’t really going anywhere. And even after the Croods finally set out on their journey, it’s not really certain where they’re going—or how relocation to this mysterious, distant land is going to help them survive the end of the world.

And it certainly doesn’t help that the characters are stereotypical and intentionally dim-witted. The dad, Grug (appropriately voiced by Nicolas Cage), is boorish and stubborn. The teenage daughter is headstrong and adventurous (and totally willing to follow some strange boy on a dangerous journey). And when the women are introduced to this thing called “shoes,” they all squeal with delight (as any woman would, of course). Even the film’s most amusing character, Cloris Leachman’s batty old grandma, is a walking cliché.

Fortunately, though, there’s one thing that DreamWorks does consistently well: its animation. The Croods’ vibrant prehistoric surroundings are absolutely stunning, animated in breathtaking detail—and that helps to make the journey a little more tolerable.

Of course, most kids won’t really care that the story doesn’t go anywhere—or that the characters are all grunting, lumbering clichés. They’ll just care that it looks cool and it’s silly. So if your kids are looking for some spring break entertainment, The Croods should do the trick—but it’s not the kind of clever animated adventure that you’ll want to experience with them.

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