Directed by Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman
DreamWorks Animation has upped the ante with their newest offering in the wild, prehistoric road trip movie The Croods. Easily the best family entertainment offering of the year, so far, The Croods doesn't necessarily visit any new story territory, but enhances an already beloved genre and approaches the "good morals" with a fresh twist of comedy and adventure.
Nicolas Cage (in easily his best role in years) is the voice of the Grug, a well-purposed dad in a land where his family (of cavemen) are the only survivors. To say he's neurotic would be a compliment. The family, consisting of mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), grandma Gran (Cloris Leachman), daughter Eep (Emma Stone), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and baby Sandy (Randy Thom), spends their days venturing out only for a quick hunt an bite to eat. The rest of the time they are holed up in their cave, listening to Grug's stories and sleeping in a pile. They are so scared of danger that they don't actually experience any too often. It's hard to when you spend your days in a cave. Eep, in all her teenage glory, is about to change things. After sneaking out of the house cave one night, she runs into another person, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who seems to have an advanced persona compared to the Crood family, and Eep is immediately smitten.
Guy knows doom is on his way and, after a bit of excitement, Grug agrees. Thus begins the ultimate family road trip, across uncharted lands and with a character the head of the family isn't willing to accept.
Morals and lessons on trust, love, and the real meaning of family are mixed in with some beautifully animated sequences, clever and unique characters, and dialogue that will keep kids and adults laughing. (At the screening, one kid couldn't stop repeating things he was hearing because he thought they were so funny.)
Besides the always good to hear reminders of the importance of family (blood-related or not), the fun in this film is in the unique path the characters take and, even more exciting, the unique characters they meet on the way. From strange fluffy animals conjoined at the tail to some adorable elephant-mice hybrids, part of the adventure was the audience's for the taking. We never knew what to expect next. And, that's a fresh feeling when going into an animated movie.
Pixar, animation's most valuable player, succeeds in part to the heart it expresses in every tale. DreamWorks has found that in a few of their past projects, most memorably in How to Train A Dragon, and finds it again here.
A few of the action scenes may make the smallest in the family want to sit in your lap, but overall the movie is fun, exciting, hilarious, and fresh (I can't think of a better word to describe it).
THE CROODS opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow, March 25.
Runtime: 98 minutes