Friday, January 10, 2014

The Croods Movie Review

Now that Dreamworks is essentially doing its own thing down instead of trying to emulate Pixar (see my Kung Fu Panda review for further ranting), Dreamworks has created a number of exceptional animated movies. The Croods (2012) was fun and showcased some stellar animation, but floundered a bit in terms of story.
The Croods, a family of prehistoric cavemen, has managed to survive harsh environmental hazards and predators for years in the safety of their cave. It is the job of the patriarch, Grug (Nicolas Cage), to keep his family safe and has repeatedly taught them the rules that have kept them safe for so  long; "new things" pose a threat to survival, and to never not be afraid. Grug's wife Ugga (Catherine Keener) and their three kids, Eep (Emma Stone), Thunk (Clark Duke), the ferocious baby Sandy, and Ugga's mother Gran (Cloris Leachman) spend their days cowering in their cave and scavenging for food. The Croods are forced outside the safety of their cave when it is destroyed as the tectonic plates begin to shift. Terrified of the alien world outside, they seek out a new shelter with the help of a nomadic caveboy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) who, unlike the Croods, uses his brain to come up with ideas and inventions to overcome obstacles.
Concept Art for The Croods
Similar to Lilo & Stitch art
Chris Sanders is the guy responsible for The Croods. He directed it, wrote the screenplay, came up with the story concept, and heavily influenced the character designs. Chris Sanders also did all of this for Lilo & Stitch as well as provide the voice for Stitch. He's got a passion for animation and it does show in The Croods. You can see some similarities to the art style from Lilo & Stitch manifesting itself in The Croods.
The animation in The Croods is really fantastic. Everything is highly texturized. You can see very believable cracks and crags in rock formation, see clumps of fur and individual hairs on the characters and their fur skin clothing, small blemishes and imperfections in the skin, you can even see the veins bulge in Grug's neck when he yells. Among the most impressive bits of animation is the dust clouds. They look remarkably realistic!
Most of the characters are actually not that interesting. Grug and Eep are easily the most interesting since they each grow and develop the most. The other characters pretty much have one shtick that defines them and it is continuously reiterated in each scene. For example, Gran seems to be there for the sole purpose of mother-in-law jokes. On the other hand, Grug is having to accept change, accept that he can't control everything, and that rules naturally need to change as the world changes. It seems that rebellious teenagers go back as far as protective fathers do. Eep wants to explore and see the world, which goes completely against Grug's "new things are dangerous" and "never not be afraid" rules. Eep learns that the rules that have been around for generations have lasted for a reason; they work, and they keep us safe.
One of the things I particularly appreciated about The Croods is the family doesn't fight with one another. They certainly have very different views and don't always agree with one another. Sometimes they become angry at each other, but they don't fight amongst themselves. Family movies often have a kids vs. parents sort of theme, but that is not present here at all. The entire Crood family loves and respects each other despite their differences. This is established early on when The Croods scavenge for food; the whole family is in on it and they work together as an efficient team. Everyone works seamlessly together in a hilarious scene that is a cross between dodge ball, an obstacle course and a rugby game. I thought that was refreshing and I would love to see more movies do that.
There is a joyful, exciting, and tense theme of exploration and discovery. None of the prehistoric creatures the Croods encounter are actual prehistoric animals; they're all unique, comical, and bizarre. Even the landscapes they traverse seem highly strange and otherworldly. This gives us a sense of unfamiliarity along with the characters. While this was well implemented, they didn't do much else. The Croods encounter a new thing, they panic, and either accidentally find a way around it, or Guy provides a way around it. Nearly every scene follows that pattern, and it quickly becomes predictable.
The Croods is a good clean movie that the whole family could enjoy. It wasn't the best movie, but it had some very good qualities. It features some remarkable animation, some simple characters and some good characters, a fun theme, and good family values. The slapstick and cartoon physics are funny, but not very diverse. That coupled with a predictable story pattern weakens the movie overall. In the end, I think it's an okay movie. Kids will love it, older audiences will be amused. It's worth seeing once, but probably not worth owning unless you've got kids. You shouldn't lose any sleep over missing this, should that be the case.

I really liked the fact that the family in The Croods was
actually functional; they disagreed and became angry with each other at times, but were always loving and respectful of one another. It was realistic, yet optimistic. I want to see that in more movies. Can you think of any other movies that have a family like that in it? Comment below and make some recommendations!

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