When The Croods first came out, I dismissed it, afraid it would only live up to its silly, barbaric name. But I gave it a shot later, after its Oscar nomination for best animated feature and was happily surprised. The film is a fun family comedy about growth and adaptation that has potential to become a classic.
The Croods are a family of six cavemen, perhaps the last of the cavemen since all their neighbors died in some prehistoric way (like being stomped by a mammoth). They have survived because they’re extra cautious, a trait patriarc Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) continually teaches his family. For days they will stay cooped up in their cave and come out only to hunt. While this lifestyle is safest, teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) longs for more. The fact that she is full of curiosity (a trait that her father warns will get you killed) makes her long days in the cave worse.
When Eep follows a strange new light outside the cave one night, she meets Guy (Ryan Gosling). He warns her that something he calls the end is coming. As soon as Eep is in trouble for leaving the cave, the end arrives; a huge earthquake destroying the family’s beloved cave. Suddenly, they are thurst into a new world on the other side of the rocks, full of colorful creatues, lush jungles and new dangers to discover. Thankfully, they find Guy again and he helps them survive, adapt and think for themselves.
However, Guy’s arrival is a threat to Grug’s authority. According to Grug’s tired old stories, everything new is bad and trying anything new will result in death. Being thrust into a world where everything is new and their newest member has inventive tricks to help them survive quickly has Grug’s family trusting in Guy. Annoying as he is to Grug, eventually they will have to learn to work together in order to survive.
Once we are into act two of the film, where the family is in new and unfamiliar territory, everything suddenly becomes so lively and colorful. There are red birds that devour animals like locus, a tiger that seems like an overgrown rainbow cat and giant carniverous flowers, just to name a few treats. It’s all very eyecatching and delightful, even if it’s doubtful that such creatures ever existed.
The hunting scenes are especially enjoyable and show the family members roles. They work together like a team, flipping a coin to see if eager Eep will make the first run or the clumbsy, reluctant son, Thunk (Clark Duke). It’s easy to see Grug is trying to better prepare his son and is more protective of his daughter. From the sidelines, Grug directs and cheers his son on, while the mother, daughter, baby and grandmother wait for their turn to run and assist. In the heat of the chase, the giant egg the family has snatched is tossed like a football, the end zone back at their cave. And in tense situations their secret weapon, the most primative of the bunch is unleashed, “Release the baby!” It’s a fun bit of action that let’s us get to know the family and how they work together.
What I believe propelled The Croods into its Oscar nomination was it’s perfect combination of top-level animation and a story with a lesson all ages can enjoy. While Grug is initially a brute unwilling to change for the safetly of his family, we see that even the most hard-headed caveman has potential in the new world if he is willing to try.
“I was in love once. He was a hunter, I was a gatherer. It was quite the scandal. We fed each other berries, we danced. Then father bashed him on the head and traded me to your grandfather.”