Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Croods

Directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders
Written by Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders and John Cleese

            Dreamworks was on such a winning streak, and now they’ve gotten fairly hit or miss.  Their “two movies a year” schedule has started producing less “one drama, one comedy” and more “one good, one bad”.  Thankfully and surprisingly, The Croods is the good one for 2013.
            Eep (Emma Stone) is a cavegirl who wants to go out and explore the world, but ends up stuck in one cave thanks to her overprotective father, Grug (Nicolas Cage).  When an earthquake destroys their cave, the Croods are forced to move on into the bigger world—and meet Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who believes the end of the world is coming, and has big ideas that threaten Grug’s “new is bad” beliefs.
            The Croods excels at two things: its comedy and its visuals.  The comedy follows the Madagascar rule of being as over-the-top as possible, taking well and full advantage of being absurd.  A Looney Tunes-esque puppet can distract a vicious predator.  The character can be in mortal danger one moment, and then fall hundreds of feet the next and be fine.  It even manages to get in some darker comedy, such as the opening of the movie, which explains the horrible ways all the Croods’ neighbors died.  And as for the visuals, this is one of Dreamworks’ most impressive movies.  The huge jungles and deserts are remarkable, and the animals (all made-up) are colorful and just fun designs.  A lemur with its tail connecting to another lemur, a multi-colored sabretooth tiger that’s simultaneously vicious and adorable.  It’s stunning to look at.
            And of course, every animated movie must have some heart and morals.  And here’s the one point where the movie falters.  You know from that outset that, at some point, Grug is going to have to come around to liking Guy.  I can’t even consider this a spoiler, if you’ve seen or read a story in any form, you just know this.  What the movie does is essentially just flip a switch on Grug.  His character development doesn’t slowly happen or have any big revelation, the movie just arbitrarily decides at some point to give him the development.  The moral in general is questionable at best as to what it actually tells the audience (although the message at the end is well done).  And this also comes with the fact that the movie shifts its perspective away from Eep, and indeed, the rest of the Croods family towards the end, to focus on Grug and Guy.  Apparently, an early script of the movie was just about them, with the rest of the family added later, and it shows.  Hopefully, the inevitable sequel (it’s already announced, even) will rightly focus more on Eep than Grug.

             Still, even with its missteps, The Croods is hilarious.  Plenty of big laughs offset the third act problems well enough.

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