Now it’s finally time for me to sit down and give you my thoughts on the film! Here’s my straightforward movie review of THE CROODS, the newest 3D family film from DreamWorks Animation, out in theaters tomorrow, March 22.
With the world literally crumbling around them, the Croods -a family of cavemen – head out in search of safety and a new place to call home. In the process, each of them must face their fears and be willing to adapt to new situations, surroundings, and friends.
I admit, the backbone of the story and character dynamics are very familiar. We’ve seen the “the world is changing, now what?” scenario played out in the Ice Age movies. Rebellious daughter Eep and overprotective father Grug follow a pattern similar to that in Brave. And clever Guy, who regularly solves problems with brains rather than brawn, reminds me of Hiccup from How To Train Your Dragon.
BUT…if the story is familiar, the packaging is something else altogether. Something spectacular.
For starters, this is a rare family movie in which there is a whole family: mother, father, children. And not just that, but a multi-generational family, as Gran plays a big part in the story, too. The Croods may bicker and bark, but they are fiercely loyal to each other, and learn to rely on each other for their different strengths and contributions to their family.
There is a lot of physical humor in THE CROODS, which the commercials seemed to focus on in early promotion of the movie. Indeed, the first 10 minutes or so of the film is a frenzy of action as the Croods hunt their morning meal. The sequence is accompanied by an NFL-like score from the USC Marching Band, which only adds to the loud, frenetic nature of the scene.
But I don’t want moviegoers to get the wrong idea. There is also a lot of clever, laugh-out-loud humor in THE CROODS. It’s much more sophisticated than initial commercials may hint at. And the physicality of the Croods is more natural in the context of the whole film – I mean, they’re cavemen, for goodness sake. “Physical” is all they’ve known. And yet, throughout the movie they are compelled to transform in thought and in action, so what may seem like it’s going to be a movie full of slapstick humor is really much deeper than that.*
Also deeper is the amount of heart in this movie. I cried, for real. You get so invested in these characters that certain moments of peril or uncertainty leave a catch in your throat. And there are very touching moments of resolution and resolve. I would not hesitate to ultimately call this movie “sweet.”
There are a few staples of most modern kids’ movies that are NOT present in THE CROODS, for which I am very grateful. Let me explain. First, there are NO juvenile, potty-humor jokes or innuendo, or pop culture references. Next, there is no real “villain” in this movie. No evil sorceress or spooky voodoo man. No deranged power-zealot or back-stabbing ingrate. The conflict and tension in this movie come from the environment, from change itself, and from typical family dynamics. Finally, although there is a “love story” of sorts between Eep and Guy, it’s – as another reviewer put it – rather “sexless.” There’s no marriage implied, no happily ever after. Eep fawns over Guy a little, but mostly I think because he’s new and interesting, not because she has some concept of him being “hot” (or is it “hawt?”). I read in film notes from the directors that she thinks of him more as a new toy, and he is often carried around like a kitten or a rag doll in the movie. In terms of what the directors chose to leave out of THE CROODS, it seems to me that this is a family film that remembers there are young kids in the audience, and I love that.
And as far as younger kids go, it’s my opinion that THE CROODS is a “safe” bet for even sensitive 4-5 year olds to watch, even in 3D. It has a PG rating for “some scary action,” and the movie may get loud at times, but I would not describe this film as “scary” in and of itself, and think most younger kids would be just fine. It was wonderful to hear that the filmmakers used feedback on exactly this topic while making THE CROODS, and definitely kept younger kids in mind.
In terms of the 3D – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: THE CROODS is the best use of 3D in animation that I have ever seen, period. I am always a cheapskate and make my kids watch the 2D versions of newly released films, but I will be happy to pay the extra for my kids to see THE CROODS in 3D, and I urge everyone else to do the same. The 3D brings the already stunning artwork of the movie to life, making the film a totally immersive experience.
I really loved THE CROODS, and am excited to bring my children to watch it in the theater this weekend. If you see it, make sure to let me know what you think!
*note: I feel like I have to include one caveat to my praise of the humor: I didn’t care for the “I hope she dies today” needling from Grug, aimed at his mother-in-law. I get them wanting to portray the typical tension between a mother and son-in-law, but the death jokes felt…unnecessary.
***Disclosure: This is part of a series of posts I have written following a trip to DreamWorks Animation in February. The trip was provided by 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation; no other compensation was received. All opinions expressed are honest and my own.