By Will Ashton | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Croods | Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco | Rated PG
Despite its title, The Croods, the new animated film from DreamWorks Animation, is actually very sweet.
The Croods, a family of prehistoric cavemen, are among the last of their kind. As everyone around them has been killed by various dangers lurking in the outside world, Grug (Nicolas Cage), the father, has made it his goal to make sure his family is out of danger’s way. Living inside their cave, they only go out once a week in order to gather food.
Despite her father’s criticisms about curiosity, Eep (Emma Stone) continuously questions the ways of the world outside of the cave. When sneaking out one night, she stumbles across Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a curious traveler, who teaches her about inventions like fire. When the Croods are forced to leave their cave, they follow under the guidance of Guy and his new-minded ways.
The Croods is the third feature from co-director Chris Sanders. You may not know the name, but you know his films. Having previously directed Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon with Dean DeBlois, it’s clear that Sanders has a solid foundation for understanding strong characters. When you reflect on his previous films, it’s clear that the characters are who’s remembered.
Since DeBlois is currently busy making How to Train Your Dragon 2, expected to come out next year, Sanders is now joined by Kirk De Micco- who has only previously directed the awful Space Chimps. As a result, the film is crowded with more slapstick humor, which goes back and forth between hitting and missing.
But even when the jokes don’t always work, the film remains strong- and that’s for one main reason: the characters. Once again, Sanders’ clear love of character shines, and it captures the heart of the film. The main reason we care about what happens in this film is because we care about these characters and their relationship with one another. While its message-that a family should always stick together- is perhaps a little too rudimentary, at the end of the day, you care enough about these people that you want them to succeed anyway.
The biggest problem with Space Chimps was that it focused more on its bad humor than its characters. Working with Sanders, I feel De Micco is able to work through some of his problems from his past. He clearly has an influence in the film- as evident through the film’s humor- but he has Sanders to control the film’s emotional core.
The strongest point of this film is its use of environments. Visually, this film looks fantastic. The colors pop beautifully, and when the film gets deeper into its set pieces, there is always is something on screen to capture and hold your attention. Additionally, the creature designs found throughout the film are perhaps some of the funniest and most inventive I’ve seen from an animated film in some time.
But what makes them really work is that the filmmakers and animators don’t let these set pieces go to waste. Each place visited on screen is viewed to its full potential, and it adds a lot of visual depth. Especially in 3-D, which, by the way, is the way I recommend seeing this film.
The voice acting all around is quite good as well. It’s nice to see Cage involved in a good film once again. Sanders and De Mirro never make Grug appear to be the villain, but rather depict him as either confused about what to do or worried about the safety of those he loves. It adds a lot of sympathy to his character, especially in scenes where he could have grown unlikable. Cage adds a great blend of sensitivity and aggression into his performance, and it pays off for the character. Additionally, vocal performances from Stone, Reynolds, Catherine Keener, and Clark Duke add a lot of punch.
Even with its excessive use of slapstick, its sensitivity and care for its characters, story, and environments ultimately wins you over. Even in its overuse, the humor is legitimately funny at parts. But it’s the dramatic parts that really make this movie shine. It may not be a slam-dunk, but it’s still an extremely entertaining and engaging film that’s worth checking out.