In Cinemas Now – The Croods: Review By William McClean

The Croods ***

Certificate: U

Running Time: 99 minutes

Directed by: Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener and Clark Duke

THERE was a time when Disney studios solely dominated the animated genre of cinema with a string of hand drawn and computer animated features that became instant classics. But many film studios got wise to this lucrative market and soon were releasing their own animated features, hoping for easy box-office returns.

But you only need to ask Robert Zemeckis and the producers behind last year’s flop, Mars Needs Moms to realise that there are never any real guarantees for healthy financial returns in Hollywood. Like all big budget blockbusters certain boxes need ticked to guarantee any form of widespread appeal.

Firstly there needs  some big names attached to the film to garner initial audience interest. Secondly and more importantly there has to be a solid story, with a witty screenplay that appeals to viewers both young and old.

DreamWorks Animation’s latest offering The Croods seemingly passes on both counts with a solid story that centres on a dysfunctional prehistoric family that would put even The Simpsons to shame. There’s a strong central cast lending their vocal talents including Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds.

Cage stars as Grug, the protective father of his family, determined to keep his family safely alive in their small cave, safe from the dangers that lie outside, but his young daughter Eep voiced by Stone yearns for more from her life. When the family’s cave is destroyed in an earthquake the Croods family must entrust their safety to the mysterious stranger known simply as Guy (Reynolds). Reluctantly he agrees to let Guy lead the family to higher ground and the promise of new cave.

It’s hard not to get won over by the film, it’s not perfect by any means but there’s enough within the film to maintain viewer’s interest levels. The opening prologue features some beautiful hand-drawn animation accompanied by Stone’s introductory narration which perfectly sets the scene. Sadly as the film progresses it does begin to feel like an endless array of various set-piece sequences and many of the gags are repeated numerously, quickly becoming a tad repetitive. The film’s 3D efforts add little to the viewing experience, after a while I had forgotten I was even watching a 3D feature at all.

Taking those criticisms aside there are some lovely moments between Grug and Eep, as father and daughter struggle to comprehend the changing dynamics of their relationship. Grug feels threatened by the presence of Guy, wary of his intentions with his young daughter, concerned by her increasing infatuation towards this exciting young stranger. While Eep becomes increasingly frustrated that her father treats her like the child she no longer is, tired of his unimaginative stories and warnings of death. There are several moments within the film that many parents watching might be able to relate with.

It’s all perfectly enjoyable stuff and younger viewers should be easily entertained during the movie’s reasonably short running time. But I wonder about the film’s enduring appeal. It’s no classic by any means, lacking the rewatchability of other animated movies such as the likes of Toy Story, Wall-E and Shrek. Compared to the recently released Wreck-It Ralph the film does feels a tad lightweight and shallow but nevertheless is still well worth a watch.

Review by William McClean

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