Reviewed by Ian Forbes
Parents with small children likely to be emotionally scarred by the vicious flying monkeys of Oz the Great and Powerful now have a much more appropriate film to share with the family: The Croods. Also, unlike director Sam Raimi’s lackluster prequel, this movie’s actually fun.
The premise is sort of a twist on Ice Age: The Meltdown versus Ice Age: Continental Drift, though I’m not mad at the simple concept of a family of Cavemen being led to safety by a mysterious stranger. Just like comparing with the mediocre Oz, the nice difference between The Croods and any of the Ice Age sequels is that this is actually fun.
So let’s see, I’ve badmouthed a few films in order to prop up this one. Yeah, that sounds a lot like me. But what makes this movie any good? It starts with a funny script, continues with entertaining character designs, and finishes strong with good voice work.
Directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders also took on the writing duties (Sanders previously had a hand in the story for such notable films as The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty & the Beast, also directing Lilo & Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon). De Micco’s credits are far less impressive but he’s making up for it here. Such lofty comparisons are dangerous to make and just to temper expectations, I’d place The Croods‘ effectiveness somewhere between the two previous directing efforts of Sanders. That’s still good company but I’ve got no delusions that this will pick up a Best Picture nomination (of the non-animated variety) for next year’s Oscars; though if there are five better animated films this year it will be the strongest year for the genre in quite some time as recent years have been a hodgepodge of mediocrity.
The animation is a good mix of exaggerated and traditional, working well with the 3D design. I kept forgetting which animation studio did the movie but always found myself remembering it was Dreamworks because the 3D actually works. They’re the only animation studio that’s figured out how to use the technology effectively. All of the others have yet to figure out how to create truly immersive environments and instead only manage to make a few object poke out at the audience. That’s a crucial distinction, and it’s the tipping point for whether you should spend any extra money to see it in the third dimension. It’s not absolutely necessary here (it’s always more important that the movie is just plain good) but I preferred that extra depth when flipping my glasses on and off to see what differences there actually were.
Finally, touching on the voice cast, it’s a good mix of actors to bring these characters to life. Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds have such unique and young voices that it makes relating to their characters very easy. Nic Cage’s ultra recognizable vocal patterns make a lot of sense as the over-protective patriarch of the family and he’s nicely balanced out by the calm nature of Catherine Keener playing his wife and the spot-on comedic timing of Cloris Leachman as his mother-in-law. Clark Duke’s take on the son doesn’t stand out but it’s done well and in no way detracts from the others’ efforts.
Like I alluded to in the opening, The Croods is a good, family friendly film. It appeals to the intended demographic of kids (keeping those in the screening audience engaged and interested throughout) and has plenty of appeal for the adults in the audience also. It’s correctly rated at PG (unlike Oz) and is worth a trip to the theaters if one is looking for something pleasant to enjoy in theaters, with or without wee children begging for gummi treats.
The Croods opens in theaters on March 22, 2013 and is rated PG for some scary action.
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