by Justin Jasso (@jjasso007)
History has a way of bringing the wonder out of people. And not just any history: ancient history. Maybe it is because we, as humans, like to have a firm grasp on life and our existence, and not knowing something provides uncertainty. Or maybe it is just a fascination regarding the way things were and wanting to put the pieces back together so we can, in some sense, experience what it was like for others so long ago. But what was it really like for the people before current man, for the cavemen? Dreamworks brings to the big screen, The Croods, giving us a look into the life of a cavefamily (probably not very accurate) as only animation can do.
The Croods are a family of six who has, up until now, outlived their “neighbors” by following by one simple rule: fear everything. They are in before the sunsets each day. Father Grug (Nicholas Cage) keeps them in a state of constant fear because that’s safe, but teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) wants to go out exploring. One night, she sees light coming into the cave and decides to go explore, eventually coming upon a teenage boy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Guy introduces her to fire and tells her he’s heading to the mountains as something is coming and the ground is going to shake and split open, and they need to get away.
Later, after Grug finds out she’s left the cave, Eep tells him she met someone and that they need to leave as something bad is coming. No sooner does she speak the story before the earth begins to shake and their cave is destroyed. Now the displaced Croods must journey to find a new home, while Grug can’t stand taking a backseat to a boy on this journey.
After how many Ice Age movies (most not very funny, if I may add), it’s nice to have something fresh when it comes to prehistoric life. The Croods definitely fits that bill and provides new life so many thousands of years in the future. It would have been very easy for the writers to make this story full of jokes and cliché, but instead it is taken a little more serious. This is their life that they are dealing with, this is survival, it isn’t a joke. And by taking this course of storytelling, the film becomes more realistic and meaningful to the audience.
It’s typical, at least for decent animated films, for there to be some life lessons to be taken away from the film. The Croods is no exception. Not only is the conflict between the Croods and the outside world (predators, earthquakes, the continent changing), but there are also internal conflicts as well. How does the family make the choice to abandon the patriarch’s leadership after all these years and follow a boy they just met? How does a father, who has protected his family his entire life, come to terms with the fact that he’s no longer able to protect them as he’s now in a world unfamiliar to him? Is there a way to mend a rocky relationship between a father and his teenage daughter when they’ve never really expressed love? So much of what happens between the characters are things that we can relate to on some level, and that makes it more personal and garners our investment into the characters.
The Croods in a good film, filled with character growth and looking at the bonds of family, but it isn’t quite on the level of classics such as Toy Story, Up, Wall-E, Monster’s Inc, etc. There’s just something that doesn’t quite move it up to the level of the greats. Maybe it’s just the overall plot of escaping an oncoming catastrophe (being as the catastrophe doesn’t have a face or name, it’s hard to envision it as a protagonist). But the film has enough warmth and humanity to make it worthwhile and worth watching. There’s also the matter of being able to take something away from this experience deeper than ninety-eight minutes of entertainment, and that, in itself, is worth the price of admission.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars