THE CROODS

Directors: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke
Running time: 98 minutes

Unlike Pixar, a company who pretty much guarantee brilliance with each film (apart from Cars 2), Dreamworks can be very hit-and-miss.  They’ve produced some crackers over the years, in the form of Shrek, Chicken Run and How To Train Your Dragon, but they’ve also had some real duds like Shark Tale and the Shrek sequels.  It’s wonderful, therefore, when they gift us with a picture like The Croods, a beautiful tale of a prehistoric family who explore a magical and dangerous world they never knew existed after being chased from their caves by the changing landscapes.  With this they’ve found a little bit of magic.

The voice cast boasts several big names.  This is the first time in years Nicholas Cage has done something other than play either Nicholas Cage the badass or Nicholas Cage the dude whose family has been kidnapped, and I have to say, it’s refreshing.  He may just be voice acting, but he’s really great as Grug, the overprotective father of the family who mistrusts the outside world and teaches them to “never not be afraid”, because fear keeps them alive.  The rest of the voice acting is equally as great.  Emma Stone stands out as Eep, the eldest daughter dying to get out of their cave and explore the world, and Ryan Reynolds lends his witty, snappy mouth for Guy, the only other human and love interest.  Catherine Keener, Clark Duke and Cloris Leachman also step in to fill out the rest of the family, the latter two of whom are both funny in their own ways.

It’s pretty much impossible for contemporary animation not to look great, and The Croods is no exception.  This world looks just beautiful – in lovely 2D I might add – and its beauty is made particularly noticeable by the stark contrast of worlds towards the end of the first act.  We begin our story in a dark, dusty, desolate landscape full of rocks and soil before suddenly stepping into the bright, vibrant and multicoloured world beyond; a step that takes our breaths away.  Then there are further terrain shifts, each of which has its own unique personality and beauty.  It also sounds great, from the booming (and hilarious) opening scene where the family attempts to steal an egg away from an extremely protective mother bird, to the roars of the jungle cat and the lava spewing up from the Earth’s bowels.  An altogether pleasant experience for both senses.

Most importantly of all, it’s really funny.  I laughed out loud well over ten times, and I don’t just mean little snickers or giggles; these were proper belly laughs.  It taps into the funny bone of this world perfectly, and while the writing isn’t always as utterly genius as you might get with Pixar, it’s always very, very funny, and really understands how to utilize this story and setting to get the very best jokes.  One of my particular favourite gags is the invention of the photograph, whereby they place powder on a slate and then smash it into their faces to leave an imprint.  That or the puppet acting where they try to lure the jungle cat into some tar by pretending to be a feline in distress.  Everyone was laughing throughout, so it works for kids and adults.

This is also one of the few occasions where the overplayed trailer didn’t ruin the best jokes. Too often a joke that should be funny gets zero laughs because everyone’s already seen it a million times, but in the case of The Croods, the main jokes from the trailer were still funny in the full film.  Think of the little sloth going: “duh duh duuuuuuuh!”, or Grug telling his son to hide from the fire in the tall dry grass.

While the story may be a touch predictable, that doesn’t stop it from being a whole lot of fun.  This is an exciting, funny and sweet film that makes you laugh and tugs at your heart-strings in equal measure.  Fully recommended.

4 stars w 1 empty

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