April 22, 2013

MOVIES: The Croods (Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders, 2013)

The animated film The Croods takes a strong cast of voice actors and strands them in a predictable story, and the animation isn't interesting enough to compensate.

Our heroine is Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), a teenager who is chafing under the restrictive rules laid down by her father Grug (Nicolas Cage). Grug lives in constant fear of the world, and keeps the family holed up in a cave except for absolutely necessary hunting trips. "Never not be afraid" is his motto.

The Crood family also includes mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), dimwit son Thunk (Clark Duke), elderly Gran (Cloris Leachman, giving what is rapidly becoming the only performance anyone will allow her to give as the mean old lady), and feral toddler Sandy.
Eep ventures out of the cave one night and meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is rather more evolved than Eep's family, and who warns that the world is about to end. (We get a planet-view shot that tells us the "end" is the separation of the continental plates, which isn't historically accurate for the era of cavemen, but if you're looking to The Croods for historic and scientific rigor, you've got bigger problems than I can help you with.) Reluctantly, the Croods join guy on his trip to a safer place.

From there, the story's predictable: Eep and Guy fall for one another, Grug and Guy bicker over the correct approach to life and to their journey, and everyone gets a big helping of redemption in the end.

Some of the landscapes are lovely to look at, and there is one spectacular scene involving a giant flock of flying pink piranha-bugs, but much of the animation is drab. The action scenes never quite provide the necessary thrills, and as you watch, for instance, the opening family hunting sequence, you can't help but think how much more crisp and precise the timing would be if it had been done by Pixar or Aardman.

The cast is generally good, though Reynolds doesn't have quite enough energy. Cage is the standout; who would have guessed that literally making him a cartoon would have brought out his subtle side?

If you have kids who must be entertained, this will probably do the trick, but if you can talk them into waiting to see it on cable or DVD, you'll save some money.

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