Written and Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco
Voices by Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener and Ryan Reynolds
Grug: Tomorrow isn’t a place. You can’t see it.
Guy: Yes, you can. I’ve seen it! And that’s where I’m going.
I was initially very skeptical of THE CROODS before seeing it. On the one hand, it is co-written and co-directed by Chris Sanders, the man behind the exhilarating and unexpected, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. On the other hand, it is co-written and co-directed by Kirk De Micco, the man behind the clunky, tiresome and almost entirely forgettable, SPACE CHIMPS. Would THE CROODS be a constant delight or would it just be plain crude? Well, either De Micco has become a much better storyteller than he was five years ago, or Sanders’ sense of style and direction was just more dominant during production, because, while THE CROODS never soars as high as a dragon can, it is still infinitely more entertaining than monkeys in outer space.
The Croods, the family that is, and not the movie, are a prehistoric take on the modern family. Dad, Mom, brother, sister, baby and grandmother all live in one cramped, little cave. In fact, they spend the majority of their time in this cave out of fear of the unknown that is waiting just outside their makeshift boulder-door. The entire film is based on a very simple construct; new is bad. Sticking to what they know has kept the Croods alive and together, when so many other families have perished before them because they dared to explore the world in front of them. Playing it safe keeps Crood patriarch, Grug (Nicolas Cage) quite content. This does not bode as well for his teenage daughter, Eep (Emma Stone). She is so curious, she is even seen chasing a light on a wall at one point, just like the famously curious beast we know as cat. This inevitably leads to some heated father / daughter moments, and naturally some emotional father / daughter resolutions.
What elevates THE CROODS past its basic premise is a combination of the dynamic animation style and the winning voice performances from this impressive cast. The manner in which these cavemen move is noticeably distinct, like a cross between human and animal, as they climb up rocks and chase prey, surrounded by prehistoric animals unlike anything I've ever imagined. Cage does a solid job as the father who can feel his family slipping away from him, but it is Stone and Ryan Reynolds that really shine in an ensemble that also includes Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman. As Guy, Eep’s love interest, Reynolds makes the most of his natural charm. He represents all that is new, from fire to the very notion of having an idea, and Eep eats it up, while Grug resists any and all change. As they journey toward a fresh start in a more prosperous land, the Croods’ constant sense of awe with all that they encounter eventually makes its way off the screen and infects the viewer with the same sense of wonder. THE CROODS are cavemen made for the modern mind.