Mar 25, 2013

[Movies] The Croods (2013)

Dreamworks certainly has a thing for quirky CGI comedies. As much as it seems simple enough to dismiss these animated features as merely children's movies, more often than not their humor is more adult in tone and context. Whereas Pixar tries to strike a delicate balance between their target audiences, I find that Dreamworks tends to be a bit more gung-ho and a lot more willing to push the dialog along more mature lines while they keep the children with slapstick moments.

Either way, they're pretty funny movies. Just a wee bit more oriented towards the adult market. Just a tad,

Admittedly I wasn't expecting much from this movie based on initial trailers. I mean come on, it felt like it was going to venture into the realm of The Flintstones or something. But hey, it still looked like the most entertaining movie to watch given the present line-up of movies out there so we gave it a shot. And we certainly weren't disappointed - in fact we came out very, very amused indeed.

Synopsis: The Croods is a 2013 animated comedy movie produced by DreamWorks Animation. It was written and directed by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders based on a story created together with John Cleese.

The movie first introduces to a family of cavemen known as the Croods. The initial narration by the eldest daughter Eep (Emma Stone) talks about how their family has survived for so long given how extremely careful they live their lives. Under the direction of her father Grug (Nicholas Cage), they live a very stable life where they strictly adhere to routine and avoid anything with a hint of being new. The darkness of nigh pretty much means death to them and thus they hide in their cave to avoid the slightest risk of danger.

One night Eep is surprised to see a light moving outside the cave and takes the risk to venture out and investigate. In time she discovers the source of the light is a torch held by Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a more intelligent caveman. He warns Eep about his belief that the world is coming to an end and the only way to survive is to escape beyond their territory. Eep is uncertain what to make of this theory but doesn't have much time to think about it once her father discovers that she had broken curfew. But soon Guy's theory seems to becoming true as the land goes through major tectonic upheavals. Thus the Croogs must decide whether to brave the known dangers around their cave by staying or taking the greater risk of exploring the unknown in the hopes of finding some form of escape.

The animators really got this movie started on a bang with the cute cave drawing introduction to the setting followed by the rather action-packed hunt sequence. It quickly introduced us to the entire Crood family in a way that helped highlight what made each of them unique and / or interesting. Plus it was a really fun sequence as a whole, and that's always a good thing. Beyond introducing our primary characters, it also set the tone for the movie as a whole.

I really appreciated the family dynamic, primarily between Eep and her father. It's hard to conceive me complimenting Nicholas Cage for his performance as a father (Con-Air traumatized me), but this was actually well done. I guess it helps that all his expressions were animated by the DreamWorks team and thus came across really well. Just look at how Grug would react every time he'd hope against hope that his mother-in-law (Cloris Leachman) was already dead, and then the shift once she declared that she had survived. That was just brilliant - but I'm getting distracted here.

It was a little hard to buy into Guy as a character since he seemed a little too perfect. Let's ignore the fact that he's voiced by Ryan Reynolds (mixed feelings there despite how I love him in live action), but he seems to have way too much knowledge for any kind of primitive man, even one who is a step up the evolutionary ladder versus the Croods. But in contrast, it also represents the general break with "reality" that the movie maintains to much comedic effect.

When  you compare The Croods to movies like Ice Age, you see how they decided to stop trying to be "authentic" in terms of animal designs based on discovered fossils and instead just let loose with various theoretical hybrids. And that was a good thing since the movie did want to stress that it's a little ridiculous - just look at how adorable Belt (Chris Sanders) was! And thus being inaccurate became a boon to the storytelling efforts and not a "problem" with narrative integrity.

The plot wasn't necessarily the most brilliant in the world - then again, these were prehistoric people running for their lives. But it certainly had a lot of great moments that pushed the narrative along and a lot of crazy, zany stuff to have us laughing all the other times. Add in some amazing visuals and some rather impressive CGI work with textures and movement and you had one great movie for the whole family. The kids get to enjoy the more slapstick moments while the adults get to enjoy just how mature a lot of the dialog-driven humor actually was. And that just has DreamWorks written all over it.

I really enjoyed The Croods and I can see this moving getting more rave reviews. It's not a perfect movie - few movies ever are. But it's one that really made me laugh. So it gets 4 instances of Belt trying to sound adorably ominous out of a possible 5.

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