The latest Dreamworks animation comes in the way of a prehistoric family that may be the Flintstones for the young generation. The Croods are a family of cave-people who are the only surviving family left in their desert-like region where food is scarce and danger is abundant. The animation is beautiful and, like most other recent Dreamworks productions, offers a colourful landscape that are always visually satisfying, no matter what the film itself has to offer.
Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), the father, is overprotective of his family to ensure their safety, telling stories that always end in the death of the protagonists at the hands of darkness, curiosity and adventure, all things his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) want to explore. When Eep sneaks out on her own to explore the area surrounding the cave, she discovers someone she has never seen before, Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Eep quickly develops an interest in Guy, who has much to offer the family in the way of knowledge and survival tips including how to start fires and methods to catching food. As the family grows supportive of Guy’s successful techniques, Grug becomes jealous that his methods have been more limiting than redeeming. When the family’s cave is destroyed in an earthquake, they are forced to explore new areas and see a whole new world they have never experienced.
The Croods place a lot of emphasis on family, which is good for any children’s film, but that emphasis interferes with the potential of the plot. The struggle faced by the family and Guy doesn’t feel as dire as other films in this category and ultimately, come down to Grug’s acceptance of outside help and willingness to change his approach to protecting his family. There’s just a lot of little things that get in the way of that.
The film tries hard to be heartwarming, and it succeeds but it often comes off as cliché. Beyond moments with Grug’s wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke) and baby daughter Sandy (Randy Thom), standout moments come through with Gran (Cloris Leachman), whose comedic relief is overdone in these types of films but admittedly, never get old. Meanwhile, a clever touching moment between Grug and Eep is when the hug is invented, to which Grug names it a ‘hug’ because “it rhymes with Grug”.
The Croods is not as entertaining as their predecessors the Flintstones, which had something to offer a variety of viewers through its many small gags and passing occurrences that aren’t present here as this movie has placed its focus almost solely on the entertainment of the younger viewer. It’s an attempt to win over a generation of kids to a new family of characters the way Shrek did a decade ago; only there is little that differentiates the Croogs from many other movie families. It’s satisfying and memorable for a phase but doesn’t have the lasting impact to succeed beyond its own theatrical release.