2012 really disappointed in the animation department. Ice Age: Continental Drift was a let down for me. I’d been looking forward to it because I love the main characters in that series. While not awful, it was below average. The same can be said for The Rise of the Guardians. Pixar hit a bump in the road with Brave. Still am amazed it won best picture. Again, not terrible, but I wouldn’t have even nominated it for best animated film. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted was a step up from second Madagascar movie. It gave the series a nice little pick up. Overall, though, nothing to rave about. ParaNorman and Frankenweenie were solid, but I wasn’t crazy about either of them like others were. Only one really shined – Wrek-It Ralph. That was truly excellent and worked on numerous levels (should have won over Brave). I’m pleased to report 2013 has started off well in the animation deportment. The Croods is a pleasant time.
Eep (Emma Stone) is a teenage cave-girl living in the prehistoric times. She longs for adventure and wants to see new things. She is forced to stay right by the cave with her family – her mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman), brother Thunk (Clark Duke), and father Grug (Nicholas Cage). Grug doesn’t believe in doing anything new. They have their save routine and don’t deviate from it no matter what. One of Grug’s most used line is: “you should never not be afraid.” Eep is tired of only going out to gather food, though. The feeling to explore is overwhelming. So, one night she this light and follows out of the cave. There, Eep meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a loner (he only has a little creature names Belt (Chris Sanders) as company) who has a remarkable skill. Guy can create fire. He also informers her that the world as they know it is ending. The ground is shifting beneath and Guy thinks Eep along with her family need to come with him to a save place called “Tomorrow.” Grug doesn’t like this plan, but he has no choice.
Animation wise, this is fantastic. Some of the best I’ve seen in a while. You always had something neat to look at on screen; especially in the latter half because of where the story takes you. As the story progresses past the cave, the new locations get better and better. There are great sequences where you can’t take your eyes off the screen. Visual gags seem easy enough. Really, though, they tend not to work out. Also, a lot of the clever ones have been done to death. Here, all of them were spot-on. There were the expected ones (physical humor involved with people getting hit by rocks and boulders), but some different things were done as well. Just a few neat things if you pay attention to what’s going on in the background. The Croods delivered some great eye candy throughout.
The voice acting was done nicely. Nicholas Cage was excellent; he really brought some emotion to the role. Emma Stone has been in a lot of movies over these past few years. She’s been great in all of them. I had yet to see Stone do voice acting (might have been some in Marmaduke, but haven’t seen that and don’t think I’d count it). She does a great job. On my initial viewing of The Croods, I couldn’t quite pin-point the voice for Guy. It turned out to be Ryan Reynolds. Wasn’t sure while watching, but after knowing, it sounded just like him. Like stone, this is the first time Reynolds has done voice acting. He does well, he injected life into the character. Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke also put forth a solid effort. Aside from sounding good, all the voices added something to their respective characters.
Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco directed and wrote the screenplay. I’m a fan of Sanders animated work in the past. He co-directed the original Lilo & Stitch and the splendid How to Train Your Dragon. This was a collaboration, but it seems Sanders is good at constructing simple stories. When you boil down the stories on all of his previous work, they are extremely basic. He doesn’t try to add more layers to them. This can be a plus and a minus at the same time. A plus because the story can be focused on. But on the other hand the movie can’t reach new heights. Nothing completely memorable happens here, but the story we are given works and keeps our attention. I’d like to see Sanders take a few risks next time around, he has the basics down. He just needs to add on them.
The script is a mixed bag. Jokes were the biggest hit and miss element. Some worked and some didn’t. A few jokes ran on a bit too long as well. The mother-in-law humor was funny the first time, but it gets a bit to repetitive. It still can be amusing, but it’s brought up like every ten minutes. When the humor does hit, though, it really works. Some banter between the cave-man family provides big laughs. All the humor related around Guy and how his mind is more evolved had me chuckling. The dramatic side surprised me a bit. It is handled very well. There is a real emotional core present. Parts of the family aspects come together for some touching stuff in the latter half of the movie. Wasn’t expecting it either. The message the movie presents is good, but leaves me with a small question. It is good to explore the world on your own terms and experience certain things yourself. However, I felt the movie was encouraging kids to shut their parents out completely. Felt a little clouded. Regardless, The Croods is a fun entertaining family film that’s defiantly worth seeing.