By Ed Sum
Writer/Creator Chris Sanders shows that he rarely strays far from what he knows is a good tale. To explore the problems that siblings face with their parents makes for a good story, and when he brings it up to a level that is more like The Flintstones meets Avatar, that’s The Croods in a nutshell. But this movie is one tough rock to crack. It doesn’t have the same appeal as Sander’s breakout directorial hit, Lilo & Stitch, or his phenomenal adaptation of Cassandra Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon. When the story has to deal with five characters attempting to share equal screen time, the problems of managing a cohesive family drama versus sit-com ala The Munsters is evident.
The father versus daughter plot is a good one. When Eep (Emma Stone) desires to expand her horizons by leaving the cave to discover fire and wonder what’s on the other side of the world, Charles Darwin and Christopher Columbus must be applauding. Evolution is happy. She may well be the direct ancestor to the homo sapien species. But when she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a CroMagnon, mankind’s evolutionary path is set.
But first, the entire Neanderthal family has to survive the shifting of the Continental Pangea to what it will become now. Presumably, this world is that of Earth.
The movie plods along with some non-sensical humour that could have been better. The antics between Grug (Nicolas Cage), the father, and Gran (Cloris Leachman), the grandma, gets thin fast. Some of the creature interjections feels more like a merchandise plug than necessary plot elements. Unlike Sander’s previous tales where the emphasis is on one character developing a bond with an alien or dragon, this movie is all over the map. Audiences see how tightly knit Guy is with Belt (Chris Sanders), a monkey. And the giant cat Grug faces is too predictable. If visions of Fred Flintstone being bounced outside by his own feline beast does not immediately come to mind, then maybe some viewers need a television primer to knowing all the previous programmes that has attempted to bring the prehistoric past to life, animated or not. To name a few, there’s The Gogs and Dinosaurs. And with no surprise, DreamWorks Animation confirmed that a second movie and television series is being developed.
Should the small screen version be nothing more than an emulation of the original prehistoric family, the writers better brainstorm now for a tale much different than what long time animation viewers are used to. The Croods can work as long as it strives to be different. Monsters vs Aliens the animated television series is failing because it’s no longer paying tribute to the films that inspired this world. With the Croods, it needs a strong direction in order for a television series to work. To have it patterned after The Munsters would be perfect. Eep can be the normal one whereas everyone else are simply cracked.
With a delightful young Sandy being the scene-stealer, perhaps a spinoff series emphasizing her than the entire family can be done. She has all the fire of Lilo and Stitch being at their worst, and animated products featuring mischievous characters do a better job of lasting longer. Curiously, there is a long wait for the video release. It’s expected to release in late summer of 2013. Normally, most films are available within 5 months of its theatrical run.
3½ Stars out of 5