Pixar remains to be the most popular animation studio for family members of all ages, but DreamWorks can most certainly keep up. With films such as How to Train Your Dragon, this movie studio has proven that they can compete in the constant competition for who can deliver the strongest animated motion pictures. The sequels they release are inevitable, but it's always refreshing to watch a new story unfold. Distributed by 20th Century Fox in the United States, they're hoping for a March hit from their newest animated family comedy, known as The Croods. While it isn't as funny, charming, or heartfelt as some of the other attempts at animation, this isn't a bad moviegoing experience to have with your family, even though the kids will like this more than the parents.
A prehistoric family believes that they're the only cavemen left, since their neighbors have all died in one way or another. Grug (Nicolas Cage) is living safe by the rules in order to ensure the survival of his family, who are called the Croods. Despite his outrageous strength, he's absolutely petrified of the outside world and its daily surprises. Grug tells stories about the world and how curiosity could be the death of them. While the majority of the Croods feed into this fear, the oldest daughter, Eep (Emma Stone). wants to explore the world. She's interested in what life has to offer, but she finds herself physically and emotionally stuck in the darkness with her family. However, everything changes when Guy (Ryan Reynolds) appears and predicts that the world is going to end. The group finds themselves on an uncharted journey in a new fantastical world that they never knew existed. This family has its problems, but this adventure is the one thing that will pull them closer together.
Screenwriters Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco created an interesting story with a group of intriguing characters. The tools to creating a great animated comedy are present, but they aren't utilized very well. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't allow for very much character development outside of the linear path. While they still manage to make us care about each of the family members, this could have been elevated much further. They're on a mission to make viewers laugh, but it isn't ever truly funny. Young kids will find the physical comedy to be humorous, but adults won't find themselves laughing. This leaves the film dependent upon having characters that audiences will be able to connect with. Even though the characters walk along predictable paths, you'll still find yourself rooting for them. Despite the time period and lifestyle differences, modern families will still be able to connect with the Croods. The dialogue itself is a mixed bag, since the moments of sincerity don't last through the entire running time. Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco don't take very many chances to truly capture our hearts.
Even after The Croods is done building the groundwork, the film has its issues. Fortunately, the second half of the feature is much stronger than the first. Not only does it become a lot more entertaining, but the dialogue has substantial improvements. Even though the humor doesn't get any better, it becomes much more genuine. The Croods have more emotional moments together, which will keep viewers invested in the story being told. Audiences get more opportunities to discover the fantastical environment and the creatures that inhabit it. These lands are a lot of fun to explore, especially when we're able to witness the Crood family's reactions. There are trends that convey the values of family, trust, and responsibility, which are displayed more prominently through the second half of the film. They're portrayed in the same manner you'd expect to see in a motion picture from Disney. However, the trends are displayed quite well through this group of roles. This movie isn't very subtle, but it never becomes tacky or mushy.
The Croods primarily focuses on the family, but Guy is a good addition to this motion picture. The audience never gets the opportunity to learn a lot about him, but he's likable enough to help carry the story along. Guy doesn't travel alone, as he is followed by his pet. This animal is called Belt, but he doesn't add very much to the picture. He doesn't move the plot along and he doesn't generate any laughs. When The Croods begins utilizing the animals to make audiences laugh, it's clear that they're trying way too hard. Absolutely none of it feels natural, as nearly every joke is incredibly forced. This picture primarily succeeds through its more genuine portions when it's more about the family, their connection, and the need to survive. Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of moments that convey these elements. There should have been more depth incorporated with the family's interactions. By the time the credits are rolling, audiences will feel as if they missed something that would have truly pushed these characters further into our minds.
The major studio releases have set high expectations, especially with the animation looking better each year. This isn't the best work you've seen, but it still looks marvelous. The Croods features vibrant colors that are very pleasing to the eye. There's an incredible amount of detail, especially in the landscapes. The characters don't look quite as stunning as the environments, but they still fit in these beautiful lands. The creatures look superb, as well. This picture includes a colorful saber-tooth tiger, flying piranhas, and many other inspired creature designs. The 3D utilized in this animated adventure is decent. Audiences will quickly observe the noticeable amount of depth added to the picture. The kids will enjoy the gimmicks displayed through this 3D flick, especially the scenes that include objects coming through the screen towards the audience. However, these tricks are tastefully done, as it never goes over-the-top. If you enjoy the format, then this is worth seeing in 3D.
While The Croods has some heart, it doesn't have a lot of it. This film suffers from a flawed screenplay that sometimes comes across as being quite forced. Young kids will enjoy the physical humor, but older viewers won't find themselves laughing at all. The second half of the movie is certainly better than the first, but it still leaves some to be desired. The initial concept for this story is solid, but the execution isn't great. The Croods is a cute animated film, regardless of its flaws. If you're looking for some light entertainment to keep the family busy, this isn't a bad choice. Recommended.