By Jon Gallagher
This Isn’t Your Father’s Flintstones
The Croods 3D (DreamWorks 2013) Director: Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders. Cast: Voices of Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Randy Thom, and Chris Sanders. Color, 3-D, 98 minutes.
I had the opportunity to take my eight-year-old daughter to a movie this week and she chose the one playing across the street, The Croods, an animated feature that’s had a lot of lines forming in front of the theater. This means you get two reviews in one: my daughter’s and mine.
The movie centers on one of history’s first families as they experience some of the changes occurring to the Earth. The leader of the family is Ugg, a large, extremely strong father who protects his family at all costs. His wife is Ugga, a typical cave-wife. Thunk is their dimwitted teenage son who seems to be a chip off the old block, while Eep is a rebellious teenage daughter. His mother-in-law, Gran, who keeps threatening to die, is with them as is a baby, Sandy, a ferocious toddler with all the charm of a rabid pit bull.
Ugg doesn’t like change. He tells his family that the secret to surviving is to fear everything. Naturally, his teenagers tend not to listen to this and Eep in particular seems bent on doing the opposite of whatever her father tells her. Early in the movie, the shifting of the new Earth destroys the family cave, forcing them to face the dangers of the outside world as they find a new home. They meet Guy, a nomadic teen who introduces them to fire, and teaches them that fear is something to overcome, not shy away from. Guy has a pet sloth named Belt (because he helps keep Guy’s pants up) who turns out to be the funniest character in the movie.
While the story tends to be a bit predictable, (and the interactions of the characters more so due to the built-in stereotypes), it’s still an entertaining movie. We’re introduced to landscapes and animals that are the results of some artists’ vivid imaginations and are in some cases, simply breathtaking. Amazing things can be accomplished nowadays with animation and The Croods is a prime example. Having said that, I found that some scenes, particularly one at the beginning with the family out hunting, tend to be drawn out, becoming a little boring in the process.
The main characters, Ugg, Eep, and Guy (and to some extent, Belt), are well developed, but the rest just sort of fall into the background, barely even playing a supporting role. They seem to be there just because they have to be. A day after the movie I really can’t recall even one line from either Thunk or Ugga.
I always find it hard to evaluate the voice actors in an animated movie. In a live action movie, the voice and action create the character and both depend on the actor. In animation, the actor is only responsible for half of the character – the voice. When I see an animated movie, I try hard not to find out who the voice actors are, just in case that might influence me.
The Croods is a perfect case in point. Most of the time, I really don’t care for Cage movies. He’s done a few I’ve enjoyed, but for the most part, he plays the same character with the same voice that sounds like either he’s in pain or constipated (maybe both). I didn’t know until the credits that he voiced Ugg. I have to admit, I was impressed.
Stone does Eek’s voice and is decent as is Reynolds as Guy. Again, my favorite was Belt (Sanders) who really didn’t have that tough of a job as long as the animators did theirs.
The resolution of the movie is satisfying, especially after trying to jerk some tears out of old crusty guys like me. The journey to get to the end was much like the one the family experienced in the movie: there were obstacles, laughs, impressive scenery, and interesting animals, but I’m not convinced that the journey I took was worth the end.
My daughter was thoroughly impressed and was interested throughout the movie. She gave it an A+ at first, but after thinking about it, scaled it back to just an A. Her reasoning for the reduction was that it “wasn’t as funny” as she thought it would be.
My grade is a B-. For me, it was just a tad better than an average movie, but not only did my daughter enjoy it, the other kids in the audience seemed to enjoy it as well. Had I seen it on my own, it probably wouldn’t have gotten much more than a C.