Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders
Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco, John Cleese
Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom
PG for some scary action
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There are two themes at work in DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods. Neither is by itself original, but blended together as they are, there’s more than enough wit and wisdom to keep the film from veering into kids-only territory.
The Croods are a family of cavemen who’ve survived all measures of assaults while those clans around them have died horrible deaths. The family’s patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage), takes credit for these successes with his simple list of rules, which largely cover subjects that prohibit the family from doing anything too dangerous or risky. A life of safety is a life lived.
As his teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) because to explore herself and the world around her, a chance meeting and a catastrophic event send her and her family on a journey of fear and discovery. Ryan Reynolds voices Guy, a forward-thinking neanderthal with a pet “monkey” who acts as the adventurous counterpoint to Grug. He’s the stylish, sophisticated man who wants to date his teenage daughter and for a man so keen on minute control, this provides two challenges: keeping his daughter and family secure and letting his daughter be who she is.
The film is largely an exploration of the father-daughter dynamic. It hinges on the audience’s familiarity with similar themes produced frequently, as far back as the days of silent films. We don’t have any new territory to explore and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is a movie that allows fathers and daughters to find common ground on issues that are still faced by many adolescents. Here, the mother is less a central figure than in last year’s Brave, a film to which this film bares an uncanny resemblance. Brave is the more modern tale, allowing for a princess to find happiness without a romantic relationship. While The Croods doesn’t permit an approach that’s too forward-thinking, it’s a gentle story that doesn’t dictate how little girls should behave and if Eep finds happiness with a man at her side, yet retains her independent spirit, then it’s at least a step forward.
The Croods has another theme winding its way through the narrative, one that often takes a back seat to the father-daughter story, but still carries a great deal of weight. Here we have a family, stuck in the ways of the past, afraid to try new things, explore new places or find new paths. The Croods are trapped in a mode of thinking that would likely have meant their demise had they not accepted that fact. It may have been difficult for them to change, but they are rewarded for doing so, which puts the idea into the audience’s mind that tradition has its place but staying trapped in the past is far more dangerous.
Parents have always drilled the idea of tradition and security in the ideas of the past. They believe that if they came through it ok with what they have had, obviously their children can. The world around their kids changes, but they refuse to change with it, making it more and more difficult to protect their kids from the encroaching catastrophe of adolescence and adulthood. The Croods keeps this examination as a background to the main story in hopes that the observant will pick up on the concept and keep it in mind as they grow and learn.
This kind of movie can plant the seed that will one day take root. For that The Croods deserves more than casual interest from audience’s. It may not be outwardly subversive, but great art can often hide a greater truth if you look deep enough for it. This isn’t necessarily great art, but it’s better art than a lot of what kids get these days and that has to mean something.
February 12, 2014