By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The translation of the family-adventure comedy film The Croods to a Netflix television sitcom, simply titled Dawn of the Croods, works well enough to sate fans of prehistory’s first dysfunctional family. To see them survive being turned from a 3D to hand drawn animation in Dawn of the Croods is great. The character designs are faithful to the film’s cave drawn intro. The two that stand out are Sandy (the youngest child, voiced by Grey Griffin), who takes after the eldest, Gran (Laraine Newman), in looks while Ugga (Cree Summer) — the matriarch — tries to keep the family together Flinstone’s style. She rarely gets livid, and the best episode of this lot is with the eighth episode, “Mom Genes.”
The later half of the 13 episode full-season release is far more engaging, and this series is amusing because the problems the Croods family has to deal with is typical for a modern nuclear family. There are moments where this series becomes reminiscent of Married…with Children meets Family Guy. Had the writers dealt with authentic problems cave people faced, one of them would have included how they turned from hunter gatherers to agrarian. They trade in meat instead of plants. Surprisingly, this concept is gently explored when the tween, Eep (now voiced by Stephanie Lemelin) decides to become vegetarian and tries to convince her family to switch in “The Garden of the Eaten.”
The comedy is never far away, and the lunk-head moments come from Gurg (Dan Milano) and Thunk (AJ LoCascio), the two men of this tribe. Like father, like son, they share plenty of silly moments and they are highlighted in the episode, “Scent of a Thunk.”
Thankfully, The Dawn of the Croods is not Eep-centric. There’s a few episodes which sees her become best friends with Lerk, a kooky looking cavegirl, and pals with Pat(ricia), the valley’s resident in-girl. The latter’s role is very inconsistent. From acquaintance to friend, just how close she is with Eep varies episode to episode. Suddenly, Lark, Pat and Eep are pals in “The Eep-over.”
At least the moments of how well the Crood family settled in Aah! Valley is consistent. To understand how this community comes together makes this series a satisfying watch for all ages. Although some of the delivery in what the lessons learned is rough, perhaps that’s intentional since this series is set in prehistoric times. Ideas have to be clubbed over the head. Unlike the film where the Croods are identified as the only surviving family, the Netflix series introduces at least four companies living in Aah! Valley in relative peace. Quite often, The Boors are at odds with the Croods, and there’s no mention of The Gords, Harks, Erks or Brogs from the film. They might appear in later seasons and as “This Mean Warts” reveals, families come and go fast in this valley. Or, the reason why they are not mentioned is because the Croods left the valley to hide out when interacting with the fauna eventually becomes very hairy for them, setting up entry for the film.
This foreboding element is lightly hinted at. There is danger everywhere, but for these cave people working together, they do know that by helping each other out, the bear-owls and albatrosaurus are keeping their distance. New cross-breeds are introduced in this series, and some of them are bizarre enough that even creators Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders should approve. The stories presented balances between the two extremes, surviving against a harsh environment and learning how to live with problems in the household, and that helps keeps the series fresh. The tales are animated vignette style and there’s no larger story arc to piece the series together. Not every narrative is a full 23 minutes long. A few have two per show and that makes for a curious mix.
The series will most likely continue well into 2017 when the sequel comes out. Until then, it’s safe to say The Croods will survive no matter what the odds.
3½ Rocks out of 5