The Croods (B+)
The Croods is the Hollywood’s latest offering in what I like to think of as the “daddy midlife crisis” genre (okay, it’s not a catchy name for a genre – I’ll work on it). Hollywood has decided that kids LOVE to watch overprotective dads go through midlife crises. Want proof? For starters, check out Marlin from Finding Nemo, Manny from Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, and Count Dracula from Hotel Transylvania. These midlife crises are always benign. Dad never gets an embarrassingly obvious toupée, and he doesn’t swap mom out for a younger, trophy wife. Instead, after some whining and lots of slapstick (kids love to watch dads get beat up!), dad loosens up and becomes a sunnier, mellower dude: a FUN DAD who still fiercely loves his kids but does not try to control them.
The plot follows a family of cavemen, The Croods. Led by superstrong cave-daddy Grug (a terrific Nicholas Cage), the Croods have survived against all odds by staying cooped up in their safe, but dull, cave. Grug bludgeons the family with cautionary tales and his motto: “Never NOT be afraid!” It’s all very snug until Grug’s teenage daughter, Eeb (Emma Stone), ventures out and meets teen orphan “Guy” (Ryan Reynolds). Guy warns Eeb of upcoming earthquakes (“the end of the world”) and the need to escape far away. Sure enough, the next day, an earthquake wrecks the Croods’ cave. And the family has to follow Guy to safety. Grug bristles at being usurped, but the rest of the family quickly falls in love with exploring new places (beautifully animated forests, cave mazes, and seas). Guy teaches them to rely on ingenuity, rather than brute force, to survive. And it becomes clear that they – – and Grug – – must evolve or perish.
For kids, The Croods offers exciting, high speed hunting sequences with no gore; lots of imaginative, fun slapstick (kids howl whenever granny Crood attacks); magnificent, furry animals; and an engaging cast of characters. It also helps kids understand how homo sapiens managed to survive even though we are so much weaker and slower than just about everything out there. For adults, the movie offers witty dialogue, a two-hour reprieve from cloying cutesyness, and a genuinely moving story. The movie depicts Grug’s struggle to change with warmth and wit. Adults will love the scene where Grug tries to prove his relevance by acting like a hipster and coming up with lots of crazy-man, “new” ideas (all of them duds). Grug’s efforts at coolness have the stilted feel of watching a Republican try to speak Spanish.
So, final verdict? This flick is DEFINITELY worth renting. And if you’ve got an overprotective dad in the house, BUY IT.
P.S. I have to add, though, there are some NIGHTMARE ALERTS! The red swarms of birds might scare very little ones (4-5 year olds). And older kids (5-7s) may get nervous during the brief interlude when Grug gets separated from his family (just let ‘em know it’ll be alright).