– for some scary action.
Director: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Starring: voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman
Running Time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: March 22, 2013
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 1, 2013 (Amazon.com)
Surviving in a volcanic world is tough enough, but caveman Grug (Cage) gets a rude awakening when an earthquake forces him to leave behind the only world he knows. With his family in tow, he ventures out into the volatile world in search of a new home. The situation becomes even more complicated when Grug’s family – but in particular his eldest daughter – become smitten with a nomad (Reynolds) they encounter on their dangerous journey. This quirky, imaginative stranger’s search for ‘tomorrow’ is at odds with Grug’s reliance on the traditions of yesterday.
DreamWorks Animation has been rivaling the excellent work Pixar has been creating for a few years now. But with the studio’s latest vehicle, the rather unassuming caveman adventure The Croods, they’ve really outdone themselves.
When I first saw the trailer for The Croods, I can’t say it seemed all that appealing. A family of cavemen? However, from the start, the film offers a lighthearted and adventurous feel that is complemented by absolutely stellar animation and imaginative creatures that supports the wonderment that the characters experience. The story has elements that may remind viewers of films like Finding Nemo, Tangled or Ice Age, but DreamWorks does a wonderful job giving the world of The Croods its own unique design to stand alone.
The story revolves around a prehistoric family who have lived their lives in fear of the world and predators around them in order to survive. However, the family’s daughter Eep has grown fully discontented with this lifestyle and longs for more. One night, when light pours into their dark cave from outside, Eep ventures out to investigate, only to meet a boy named Guy who wields a mysterious new light source called… fire. Guy brings with him news that the world as they know it is ending, and when Eep tries to tell her family about Guy’s warning, her father Grug refuses to listen. But once a sudden earthquake destroys their cave home, the Croods are sent on a journey to find a new home, encountering all kinda of fantastic creatures and new environments along the way.
The prehistoric elements, coupled with the monsters and beasts they encounter, bring to mind such classic exploratory films from the 50s, 60s and 70s. But with today’s animation technology, and some genuinely funny moments in the script, The Croods does this genre almost perfectly. The creatures created for The Croods are inventive and fun, with brilliant colors and unique blends of familiar animals (like parakeets and piranha as piranhakeets — or turkey fish) to create something surreal and new. Alan Silvestri’s score has almost a 70s vibe to it, too, aiding in that throwback feel that the tone of the movie also carries. Thematically, there’s a heavy importance placed on family, sticking together, and loving each other. Grug has an intense sense of responsibility in keeping his family safe and together (although he wouldn’t mind his mother-in-law, Gran, not making it), and despite all of the silliness and antics from the characters, the familial bond is particularly strong. Eep becomes the catalyst for the Croods’ world changing dramatically, and when the going gets tough, the deep love she has for her family wins in the end. It makes for some heartwarming moments near the finale that may be a little corny, but it helps drive home an important pro-family theme.
Anyone who might look at a movie like The Croods and be tempted to write off the film as another Hollywood attmept to shove evolution down the throats of young people will be surprised to hear that there’s acutally nothing about evolution or even New Age spiritualism in the film. The story really keeps to the center of the Croods and their relationships with each other. A lot of the story has a lot to do with fear and using fear to survive. This actually grounds the story in an ironic sense of realism (or maybe more like surrealism?), despite the fantastical world they exist in. While this is a cartoon and there’s loads of slapstick humor, there’s this down-to-earth nature to the story because of how stripped to the basics the characters are presented. In other words, if you eliminated stuff like “girelephants” and “liyotes” and wildly dangerous plants from the story, you’d have an animated take on a family with realistic struggles and emotions at its core. For example, Eep’s curiosity pushes her out of her stoney nest and into “life” that the Croods had really not yet begun to lead. And with Grug having witnessed so many other families get killed by venturing out of their caves and into the wild, he was determined to protect his family at any cost. It’s noble, but it also kept his three children, wife and mother-in-law from living a fuller life. As the story progresses and we’re spending time with these lovable characters, parents can relate to the desperation Grug feels in wanting to keep his family safe, while younger folks can relate to Eep’s desire to explore the world outside the walls that enclose her.
The content of The Croods is definitely of the PG variety. Violence is almost non-stop in some form, albeit usually comedically via slapstick. The family members are constantly smacking each other around playfully, and they’re also often being chased by large lion-like or saber-toothed prehistoric beasts. At one point, we see a large bird they captured presented as a roasted turkey with the Croods viciously ravaging the roasted animal carcass like dogs. It’s meant to be funny, but it’s probably not the kind of behavior you’ll want your impressionable little one to be emulating (like the constant smacking around between the siblings and such). The language is mostly clean, save for Grug using the word “sucky” at one point, and the movie isn’t super scary, but some of the large predator animals (like the ones mentioned earlier in this paragraph) could intimidate some of the younger viewers. You’ll also notice that the story has no “villain” outside of some of the same kind of predators that pop up throughout the movie.
With almost every entry from DreamWorks Animation, I’m finding my appreciation for modern animated films getting tipped more in their favor. The Croods is a great surprise and an utter delight – visually and thematically. It’s fun, memorable, expertly executed and wonderfully entertaining– and it just might pull on your heartstrings along the way.
– John DiBiase (reviewed: 10/2/13)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
The Croods is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack, a 3D Blu-Ray/2D Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack and on a single disc DVD set (and through the usual digital providers). Some retailers are also offering a special Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack that includes a little plush Belt character toy. The movie looks gorgeous on Blu-Ray and it’s just the kind of movie you’ll want to be seeing in HD.
Along with the feature film are quite a few bonus features…
The Croodaceous Creatures of Croods (6:12) is an interactive menu, with an intro from Eep and Thunk, that gives you a selection of creatures from the movie with the two siblings talking about each one. And, in most cases, there are clips from the movie that involve each one. The animals are: Bear Owl, Piranhakeet, Belt, Liyote, Punch Monkey, Turtle Dove, Turkey Fish, Girelephant, and Sharkodile (the last of which didn’t seem to appear in the movie at all??). There’s also a nice Play All option so you don’t have to return to the menu for each one.
Belt’s Cave Journal (6:15) is an animated short that features the voice of Guy narrating a story that involves him and Belt trying to reunite a “jackrobat” with its family. The animation style is very sketchy, almost like cave drawings, but it’s a cute bonus feature here.
Croods’ Cuts (Lost Scenes) (8:20) – There are 4 deleted scenes with introductions from the film’s two directors. The first scene, “Crazy Grug” takes place after their cave was destroyed and Grug panics and starts to try to rebuild it. The directors reveal here that Cage improvised a lot of his lines. “It’s Rain” features the family running from a rain storm and hiding in a shell. “It’s a Great Cave” is the only finished piece of animation here (the rest are storyboards) and it just includes one or two lines of added dialog to a scene early on in the movie. Finally, “Termites” sees the family encountering termites while on their journey, with a swarm of them attacking Thunk.
Be An Artist! (35:16) features Supervising Animator Sean Sexton as he teaches that viewers how to draw Belt, a “Macawnivore” and a “Mousephant”
The standard Theatrical Trailer (2:11) and Sneak Peek (trailers and previews for other home video releases) round out the extras. Sadly, there’s mysteriously no featurette about the cast or even an overall featurette about the film’s development, which is quite disappointing.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 10/3/13)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: The characters wear animal skins as clothes. Eep shows some thigh in her particular outfit; Gran tells a story about being in love being a “scandal.”
Vulgarity/Language: 1 “sucky”
Alcohol/Drugs: We briefly see Belt mixing natural drinks in a shaker like one would behind a bar
Blood/Gore: Not really bloody or gory, but… Piranhakeet birds swarm a land whale and reduce it to bones; The family rip up a scorpion and eat its pieces; The Croods ravage a cooked, turkey-shaped roast like a pack of dogs, with them busting through the side of it and some of the animal’s ribs being visible inside.
Violence: The intro features cave drawings of The Croods being chased by animals as Grug tells the story of their survival. He also mentions other families and how they died by being squashed, the common cold, mosquitos, etc. He then slaps his hand over their image on the wall with red earth to signify that they’d perished; Grug chases off dogs hanging out around their cave; Eep leaps off Grug and chases off more dogs, who then run over Grug; Thunk bowls over Grug and a boulder rolls on top of him; Grug flips Gran like tossing a coin and she lands on her head on the ground; Thunk gets knocked over by a bird. The family then release their toddler Sandy who chases after the bird like a dog would; Gran beats off lizards with her staff, hyenas knock her down, one runs into a tree; They get chased on a elephant by a big jaguar-like beast; Mom beats unseen ants off Sandy, Gran and Grug with a stick; The beast comes back and Grug throws a rock at it to stun it and escape; Grug saves Sandy from the animal’s paw when it reaches into the cave; Eep drops a rock on Grug’s head; Grug tells a story of a bear that got curious and died, and slaps a red hand print on the wall over a drawing of it; Eep drops a rock on Guy’s foot. He bites her and they wrestle on the ground; Eep elbows Thunk in the face; The family then collectively destroy a conch shell. Eep then hits Thunk in the face with a shard of the broken shell; A big earthquake happens and a huge rock falls on top of their cave; The beast chases them off a cliff and they fall into a jungle; Punch Monkeys keep punching Grug around in a circle from one monkey punching him to the next; A saber-toothed cat approaches them and Grug throws a rock and it. The animal catches it and then chases them. They end up on in a land whale that spits them out of its blow hole; Piranhakeet birds swarm a land whale and reduce it to bones; They birds then swarm the Croods and Guy uses fire to fend them off; The family start fires accidentally (they’ve never handled fire before) and burn the grass around them. The fire gets on Thunk who runs around in terror, spreading the fire; Eep pounces Guy; Sandy bites Thunk’s face; Belt pulls a knife on Gran who wants to eat him; Grug and Thunk chase a bird and it throws him around; The family rip up a scorpion and eat its pieces; Gran bites Thunk’s foot and they try to get her off of him as he screams; A bird attacks a large bird puppet that Guy and Eep are using to lure the bird and it throws Guy into the air. The trap they set then gets the bird and we then see it cooked on a fire. When they go to eat it, they ravage the turkey-shaped roast like a pack of dogs, with them busting through the side of it and some of the animal’s ribs being visible inside; We see Grug place a red hand print over a drawing on a rock as he tells another story where someone curious ends up dead; Eep punches Thunk in the face; Grug, Thunk and Gran step on coral on land and scream in pain; Grug kicks a log into the air and it disappears in the distance; While walking on stilts to avoid a large lion-like beast below them, Grug hits the lion with the bottoms of his stilts. The animal then cuts them down and we hear him scream; Lightning strikes Grug’s umbrella; Grug punches Guy; A plant eats a bug; Thunk runs into a wall and knocks himself out; Grug angrily throws a shell at a wall; Grug rides a boulder into a tree and it falls over on top of him; Grug covers Thunk’s face with mud and hits him with a plank to “take a picture;” They put opaque planks of wood over their eyes like sunglasses and fall over and walk into stuff because they can’t see; Grug lifts a group of boulders and a large saber-toothed bunny jumps on it and it collapses on Grug; Grug drops a rock on a see-saw type rock setup that throws him into the air. He gets zapped by lightning in the air and then falls back onto that rock see-saw. The boulder on the other end then rolls backward on top of him; Grug chases guy, and Belt hits Grug in the face with a “grenade” of pollen. They then fall into a tar pit; Belt hits Guy in the face to help him get an idea; The lion type beast lunges at them and tar stretches and flings the animal into the distance; Grug throws the family members across an unseen ravine into safety; Another big earthquake causes falling rocks; Grug hits himself in the head repeatedly; The lion threatens Grug briefly and then actually snuggles up to him.