Friday, March 22, 2013

The Croods [2013]

MPAA (G)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  Chicago SunTimes (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
Chicago SunTimes (N. Minow) review

The Croods[2013] (story, screenplay and directed by Kirk de Micco and Chris Sanders) is a generally lovely and certainly action packed children's animated story about "a family of Neanderthals" that's been trying really, really hard just to survive. 

It hasn't been easy.  Late teenager Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) explains in a voice-over at the beginning of the film that pretty much all their Neanderthal friends and neighbors had been progressively wiped-out or eaten by an assortment of saber toothed animals and even "the common cold."  They've survived because they've learned to function as a super-well disciplined team (honestly, the sequence at the beginning of the film when the family "goes out for breakfast," entailing going-out to steal a giant Pterodactyl egg and then running with it back home, keeping the egg away from not only the now very angry Pterodactyl parent as well as a whole host of similarly hungry/angry/desperate all saber-toothed animals (all drawn in a whimsical if also vicious "Dr. Seuss" style) would make any professional football team proud) and have been led by a truly self-less and brave patriarch (dad) named Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage).

Grug clearly was not be the brightest of people, but NO ONE could doubt his bravery/concern for the well being of his family composed of himself, his wife Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), his mother-in-law Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman), oldest daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), son Thunk (voiced by Clark Duke) who just worships his father, and the youngest addition to the family, a rather feral baby named Sandy (voiced by Randy Thum) who often serves as the family's "ace in the whole" on their hunting/gathering expeditions (When surprized with otherwise impending doom, one or another of the family members would call out the dreaded words: "Release the Baby" with all the drama of Zeus calling out "Release the Kraken" in the Clash of the Titans [2010] ;-) and baby Sandy proves sufficiently and utterly unpredictably vicious to scare even the largest saber-toothed nasty away from them / their prize to save the day ;-).

But even Grug and his family apparently had qualms about the morality of "Releasing the Baby" on unprepared sabertoothed tigers, etc, too often ;-).  Instead, Grug generally took the lead in protecting the family:  Each morning, he'd roll away the HUGE rock he'd roll in front of their cave as night fell the evening before.  After rolling away the rock, Grug would make a mad and loud dash in front of their cave, FULLY EXPECTING THAT ANY NUMBER OF SABER-TOOTHED ANIMALS COULD BE JUST WAITING TO POUNCE ON HIM.  Then, if "all was clear" he'd signal the rest of the family that it'd be safe to leave the cave as well to begin the day.

Whereas ALL THE OTHER NEIGHBORS WERE EITHER EATEN or otherwise DIED, Grug's kept his family SAFE and alive by following a very simple code: "Never be not afraid.  Fear keeps us alive. Curiosity, doing things differently kills."

It's not overly surprizing that while this way of life has kept the Croods alive in a truly vicious and merciless world, as daughter Eep grows up, she begins to yearn for more.  Is "living in truly constant fear, truly living?"

Enter a guy, named ... Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) ;-).  He too has had a rough life, losing his entire family as a child.  But having lost "his team" when he was small and facing the same vicious world all alone, he's had to survive differently ... by his wits.

So inevitably, big, strong Grug, living by his code (of always living in fear, mistrusting anything new) doesn't particularly like Guy when suddenly Eep finds him and brings him home ;-).  But Eep just loves him, precisely because Guy does things differently:  He gives her a "shell phone" which she can blow into to "call for help" ;-).  He helps the family "make shoes" when they have to cross a plain of very sharp stones. (Eep just loves the shoes ;-).  Most miraculously of all, Guy seems to be able to make "little suns" (Fire ;-), something that for the first time allows the Croods to not have to simply cower in their cave (and in total darkness) every night ... hoping actually that the sun will come out again the next morning (something that they're still never really sure would really happen again).

Then even as the entrance of Guy into Grog's world "rocks" it enough, Grog and his family find that the ground is literally "shifting beneath them" (a continental shift, is apparently taking place).  So Grog and the rest of the Croods have to change whether they like it or not.

This is where Guy becomes something of a Savior figure, leading this good if super-rigid family out of "Fear and Darkness" into "Hope and (with his magical Fire-making ability) "into the Light."

This is a really cute movie.  Clearly there is much for older kids and adults to find in this film.  But the little kids who were sitting in back of me as I watched the movie seemed to like the goofily drawn yet surprisingly vicious animals and the antics of the Croods defending themselves from them.

It's one of those films that pretty much everybody "gets" and enjoys.  Maybe there were a few too many "mother in law" jokes in the film, and Grog may be made a bit stupider than he needed to be (I liked the portrayal of the mother-daughter relationship in Brave [2012] better than the father-daughter relationship in this film), but honestly it's an enjoyable movie about a family that has really learned to work together in order to survive, and then with the arrival of  "Guy" proved flexible enough to accept some new things in order to thrive.  Wonderful film ;-)

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