Silly, silly fun. There’s not much of a plot — The Croods are a family of cave-dwellers whose home is threatened by earthquakes; the dad Grug (Nicolas Cage) is over protective; the daughter Eep (Emma Stone) is curious; they meet up with a smarty-pants guy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) who teaches them the secret of fire, among other things; and they set off to find a new home.
Grug, whose mantra is “Always be afraid!” immediately dislikes Guy while Eep is immediately attracted to him, and in the background are the rest of the Croods, who have their moments but are played for jokes; maybe they could have been something more, but before they can, the earthquake chases them off. There’s two running gags that persist the entire film, and there’s some ugly character design, but those are the biggest flaws.
And they’re easy to overlook because everything else looks so good. Granted, this doesn’t need to be in 3-D, as the lusciousness of the backgrounds, from crags to forests to plains to dried-out oceans encircle and captivate on their own, without added gimmicks. More fun is the creature designs, which must have had even the animators laughing. Each one is a Darwinian nightmare, conjured by a gaggle of mad scientists.
There’s flying turtles, land-whales, two lemurs attached by a single tail and a flock of birds that look like toucans, though their mouths open right below the eyes. Cute at first, then they swarm on one of the land-whales and pick it clean.
Despite that, the emphasis is clearly on the visuals, as are the gags. The talents of Cage, Stone, and Reynolds, as well as Cloris Leachman and Catherine Keener, aren’t necessary. None stand out, but then there’s little the film requires of them. Of course we have the requisite familial tensions and affirmations of love between those who need to hear it — they aren’t earned and slow the movie down considerably whenever they’re brought up, but they’re not often and don’t last long.
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