Dreamworks’ The Croods was recently released on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox. I never did see it on the big screen, mostly because of my own lack of availability when it was out in theaters; and after the disappointment that was Epic, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to check out another animated feature for a little while. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the film and would recommend it to most people. It is one of those films that has a bit of a slow start, but at the halfway point you might be surprised that you are enjoying yourself more than you thought you would than when the movie started.
The plot centers around a cave-girl named Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) and her family. The overall story is mostly about how she grows into her own, and how her relationship with her father evolves. Her dad, Grug (Nicolas Cage), is a cave-man in every aspect of the word, and is a huge advocate for the safety and stability of an established routine1. This sounds reasonable until you realize that the family lives in a cave most of the time, emerging to perform quick sorties for sustenance. Eep really doesn’t like this routine, but her paranoid father lives and breathes it, even incorporating what he believes into his storytelling at bedtime (hint: the stories that he tells never end well for any of the characters within them). The rest of Eep’s family seems to go along with him, mostly because that is all they have ever known. Her mother Ugga (Catherine Keener) humours Thug; her grandmother (Cloris Leechman) takes pleasure in annoying him (but still goes along with his generally successful plan); her brother, Thunk (Clark Duke) is daddy’s little soldier and her baby sister Sandy (hilariously portrayed by Randy Thom), ferociously feral but loyal to the family, doesn’t really seem old enough to care. Eep constantly pushes boundaries, earning her the ire of her father. Undeterred, she continues to challenge him at practically every turn; nothing can seem to quell her eternally curious spirit.
There must be a fast-food restaurant close by.
One day, everything changes: beginning with her discovery of another human (Guy – Ryan Reynolds), who seemingly controls fire and has all sorts of crazy ideas about things like armaggedon. Soon after meeting this new teen, her family’s cave is destroyed (while they were out), prompting them to find a new place to live. Eventually, then end up latching onto Guy, who informs them that he knows the way to a new place where they can start a new life. As they travel along, Guy’s creativity throws Grug’s lack of imagination in to sharp relief – much to Grug’s chagrin. The story that began by establishing the relationships between Eep and the rest of her family shifts gears, highlighting Eep’s growing attraction for Guy and the distance that is growing between her and her father. All the while, Guy leads them on an adventure that causes all of them to think about who they really are – and what they want to be in the future.
At the end of the movie, it occurred to me that this film is a mirror into ourselves. It shows us the dangers associated with change – but it also shines a light on the even greater peril of taking refuge in the safe patterns that we might be used to. Grug is a character that causes a great deal of frustration in the reader. His endless string of rules about what’s dangerous (everything) and what is not (nothing) reminds us of the seemingly annoying restrictions that our parents placed on us when we were kids. But eventually we understand that what motivates him is the love that he has for his family, and that his greatest strength does not lie in in his physical prowess, but rather his willingness to do whatever it takes to keep his daughter safe. I found that the film moved a little slowly for my taste for about the first twenty minutes or so. Eventually, though, as the audience grows to be part of the Crood family, the movie begins to really take hold and become something rather fun and heartwarming. The ending is definitely a wrenching one, emotionally. Have some tissues ready.
Family photos are always so awkwardly painful.
The Croods is a great-looking movie. Presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, it will knock your socks off. The colours are fantastically bold and the details are fantastic – especially some of the finer textures, which look like they filmed this movie live in some exotic location. The Croods travel across all sorts of different landscapes, and they all look equally as beautiful and alive. This is the natural progression of this line of film-making, and is proof that animation is always improving. Audio in The Croods is equally as impressive. The DTS-HD Master Audio is well defined and big-sounding$ The lossless soundtrack does both subtle and not-so-subtle exceedingly well. Well-balanced with really great use of the surround-sound field, the sound effects mix so well with the soundtrack that one might think they were one. Tying it all together is well-defined, clear center-channel weighted dialogue. This is a Blu-ray that you can use as a demo for your home theater – no doubt about it.
In terms of special features, the Croods comes bundled with a few. The Croodaceous Creatures of Croods is an amusing supplement that teaches the audience about the different zany creatures of the film. It is interactive, and employs a number of different methods to educate the viewers. Belt’s Cave Journal is all about Guy’s sidekick Belt, the three-toed sloth (this feature is just over six minutes in length). Croods’ Cuts is a series of deleted scenes while Be An Artist is a series of tutorials on how to draw various creatures from the film. There are also a trailer, sneak peeks for other films (like Turbo and Epic), as well as some other bits from Dreamworks Animation’s films.
My favourite part of this picture is Guy.
The Croods is definitely a really fun family film. While it resembles a lot of other animated movies out there, it does have a really great hook and enough new gags to allow it to stand on its own. The moving story is all about adjusting to feelings of change, and leaving the safety of the known to learn more about the world and ourselves. Silly physical comedy plays with some subtle humour to make for a great experience that will engage both adults and children. Plus, the visuals and sound are really awesome, and are the icing on the cake.