Film review: DreamWorks’ ‘The Croods’ breaks the caveman mold

Film review: DreamWorks’ ‘The Croods’ breaks the caveman mold
The Croods (and friends) wave to the family patriarch, as they near the end of their journey. From left: Belt (Chris Sanders), Guy (Ryan Reynolds), Eep (Emma Stone), Ugga (Catherine Keener), Sandy, Thunk (Clark Duke) and Gran (Cloris Leachman). Image courtesy DreamWorks Animation LLC

DreamWorks’ latest animated film “The Croods” takes a chance at trying something new against cave people stereotypes and succeeds, becoming a likeable, family-friendly adventure that is sure to gain favor with moviegoers looking for a good time at the movie theater. 

Whenever we hear the word “caveman,” the first image that comes to mind is an unintelligent, cave-dwelling person clad in shaggy animal hides, using both aggression and a giant club to fight off beasts. Such a concept has pretty much become the standard interpretation of the caveman. And why is that? Well, it’s because the rules are designed to keep anything classified as “new” away, out of fear that the unfamiliar will disrupt everything we’ve ever known.

But change can be a good thing. As much as we have come to associate cavemen with the wilderness, that doesn’t mean we have to relegate them to living in caves. As told in the story of “The Croods,” the search for tomorrow can bring more opportunities for the cave people — and by extension, the audience — to explore.

Nobody said living in a prehistoric volcanic world was easy, but the Croods receive an untimely wake-up call when an earthquake destroys their dwelling — yes, it’s a cave.

They find themselves journeying through uncharted territory in search of a new place to call home, all the while trying to stay a step ahead of the fantastical creatures and the ever-changing terrain. But for Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage), the family patriarch, the situation changes even further when an intelligent caveperson named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) enters the picture. In addition to attracting the attention of Grug’s daughter Eep (Emma Stone), Guy introduces the family to the revolutionary inventions he’s discovered, such as fire, traps, and noise-making horns — all of which are at odds with the traditions Grug still depends on.

Much like Pixar, DreamWorks Animation continues to stay at the top of its game: computer animation. Character movements are as fluid as the crumbling landscape the family struggles to traverse, and the scary action sequences involving creatures evoke vivacious memories from the “Ice Age” films.

In terms of color, I liked how the earthy tones of the old world contrasted with the vivid colors of the new world; such a distinction helps to establish the adventure undertaken by the central characters and the obstacles they face.

The universal nature of its thematic content enables “The Croods” to fulfill the underlying purpose of a family film: giving moviegoers of all ages something to think about afterwards.

I was pleased to see how “The Croods” didn’t just consist of an exciting adventure and fun characters and a “happily ever after” ending. It also serves as a contemplative lesson about change not necessarily being as terrible as we often assume, as well as how our fear can become problematic when it gets in the way of what really matters the most to us.

I admit I was skeptical about this film’s choice of voice casting, but I’ve got to say everyone won me over. Nicholas Cage does a good job embodying Grug’s over-protective but well-meaning personality, and Ryan Reynolds is a definite scene-stealer during his moments as the charismatic Guy.

Emma Stone brings a spirited curiosity to Eep, imbuing her role with enthusiasm and heart. The three lead vocal performances are complemented by supporting turns from Catherine Keener (Ugga, the wife and mother), Clark Duke (Thunk), and Cloris Leachman (Gran); all of who provide well-timed moments of family-oriented humor and drama.

With spring break just around the corner, families will probably be wondering if there is anything in the movie theaters worth checking out.

Well, now is the time to step inside the multiplex right now, because “The Croods” is guaranteed to appeal to the kids’ desire for fun entertainment and give the adults something to enjoy alongside their little ones.

MPAA rating: PG for some scary action.
Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Playing: General release

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