Starring: (the voice talents of) Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman
Director: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Screenplay: Chris Sanders, Kirk De Micco, John Cleese
Animated/Action/Comedy, Rated: PG
Running Time: 98 minutes
Scott, The Croods is a new animated feature from Dreamworks animation. They’re the crew who brought us all those Madagascar movies, and Shrek. I haven’t been impressed with much that they’ve done since Shrek, but The Croods is a rocking good time.
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
The Croods didn’t disappoint. I was initially a little worried that this movie would be The Flintstones set in a darker universe. But it delivered meatier fare than anything Fred and Barney could.
We’re introduced to Grug Crood (Nicholas Cage) who is a classic Cro-Magnon. He’s big, burly and keeps his family safe by hiding them in a cave. Anything out of the ordinary is bad. Everything good is in the cave. The family only ventures out to forage for food. And when they do, it’s a team event with everyone in the family doing their part. But they must hurry back to the cave before the sun sets or become food for whatever roams the night. Grug’s teen-age daughter, Eep (Emma Stone) has a different idea about what is good. She loves the sun and the outdoors and anything new. She sneaks out one night and meets a young Homo-Sapien named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Guy is everything new. He wears boots, a belt, has mastered fire, and brings a tale of impending doom – the earth as they know it is collapsing!
It had better be collapsing! We can’t have a hero story in a stable, familiar world, now can we? Grug notices that Eep is missing and frantically searches for her. Meanwhile, Guy leaves Eep to venture to safer terrain. After Grug and his family find Eep, massive earthquakes destroy their cave, sending them fleeing toward a land that is a far cry from their bland rocky desert. This new world is a lush jungle teeming with color and all sorts of new peril. Greg, to me this shift in worlds was reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz.
That’s an apt comparison. The first thing that occurred to me in this movie was how closely it matches Moxnes’ Deep Roles Model. In it Moxnes describes how archetypal characters are based on the family structure. There’s the Father, the Mother, the Crown Prince, the Princess, the Wise Man and the Hero. The Croods fit this model closely with father Grug, mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), brother Thunk (Clark Duke), daughter Eep, and grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman) as the wise mentor. The boy Guy plays the Hero character. Usually in this model the Hero is transformed through the experience. But the main character who goes through transformation is Grug, the father. He starts out clinging to the old, safe ways. But he gradually learns that the old ways don’t work in a world full of strange plants and animals.
Glad you brought in Moxnes’ model, Greg. It fits like a glove here. This movie is interesting in that it starts out giving the impression that Eep is the hero. She leaves the safety of her cave to explore a forbidden world. But as you say, it’s Grug who must change his ways in response to a rapidly changing world. He can’t stop his daughter from growing up, and he can’t prevent earthquakes from transforming the landscape. I would say that Grug is the main hero and that the mentor is Guy, not the rather uninteresting Grandma character. It was Guy who encouraged new ways of thinking and who brought about Grug’s transformation.
That’s a good qualification, Scott. I really respected the Dreamworks animators for not coloring Eep in perfect female form. She’s a cute character, but unlike so many Disney princesses, not a classic beauty. She has very broad shoulders and thick legs. Her hair is a controlled cinnamon brillo pad. She has a sunny face and great enthusiasm. I’m reminded of Shrek (another Dreamworks film) and how the princess in that story turned into an ugly green ogre at the end of the story. The Disney model requires that good characters be (or become) beautiful. (Take for example, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast who transforms from an evil beast to a good, handsome prince). All too often, both in cinema and in life, we equate beauty with virtue. It’s good to see a film that takes the risk of making their virtuous characters look less than perfect.
Eep is definitely a non-traditional woman. She’s smarter and more intellectually curious than just about every character, and she runs circles around most of the men in this story. She’s even physically stronger than Guy. If there’s a sequel to The Croods, she’s the one character I’d want to learn more about.
Greg, the movie’s only flaw, if you could call it that, was the ending. The filmmakers here got greedy and tried to make the hero just a little too superhuman. I won’t give away the ending scene, but let’s just say that the screenplay writers underestimated the audience, who would have left the theater quite satisfied with all the growth and transformation that our hero underwent. But no, we’re presented with a truly unrealistic scene at the end that wrapped everything up in a far too-perfect bow.
I see your point. However, remember this is a children’s movie rated PG. One element that was especially endearing to me was the presence of “story” in the movie. Grug often tells stories and illustrates them on the walls of the cave. I just loved the idea that the earliest people were as much in love with telling a story as we are today.
You’re right. We had stories within the story. And those stories had to change for the main story to work. Overall, it’s a classic hero tale with all the essential elements in place. The animated cinematography was amazing, especially in the early egg-chasing scenes. There was clever humor — witness the Croods’ first reactions to fire with references to fire babies and fire-biting. While Grug emerges as the main hero, in a way the entire Croods family displays heroism in their combined efforts to survive their radically changing world. Like Shrek, The Croods has memorable characters and classic themes that appeal to people of all ages. I’m giving the movie 4 Reels out of 5, and the hero 4 Heroes out of 5.
I was delightfully surprised. This is a very layered film: the merging ideas of early man with modern familial problems, the coming of age for a young girl, the feeling of loss for a father losing his daughter to a young man, the passing of brute strength in favor of intellect, and a man standing still while the world literally passes him by. I really can’t find any faults with the story except that it was a bit too saccharine so as to appeal to the sensibilities of young children. I’d like to give this 5 Reels, but the ending fell a bit flat so I can only give it 4. I was a bit confused about who the hero of the story was. The story starts focused on Eep as the element of change. Then switches to Guy, the young boy. And finally settled on Grug as the transformed hero. I prefer a more clear hero structure and so give only 3 Heroes out of 5 for The Croods