I will admit that when I saw the ad blitz for The Croods, I was not buying it. It looked fairly dumb to me, and I see a lot of children's movies. But, my family assured me that the movie had gotten good reviews (Here is one -- I had to hunt for it), so off we went. And, the experience was enjoyable for all.
The plot is very 2012 -- headstrong teenage girl believes that her well-meaning dad is too restrictive and keeping her from developing as a person. Enter boy, who is very different and challenges Dad's authority. Dad eventually realizes that the boy has useful insights and makes girl happy. This is exactly the plot of Hotel Transylvania and a variation of the Ice Age 4 and Brave plots. Oh well, nothing new under the sun.
Except that here our story is set in the "caveman era." I'm not an anthropologist, but from the reviews I'm gleaning that the Croods are neanderthals. They are on the verge of extinction having outlived all other neanderthals around them. Then the daughter, Eep, disobeys her parents and leaves the cave where they hide most of the time and finds "Guy." He is distinctly different from them (taller, more upright, pretty facial features) and has more language skills. He also has fire. Guy may, in fact, be a homo sapien. He is definitely a notch above the Croods on the evolutionary scale, at least in a lay sense. And of course, he scares the patriarch, Grug, because he is different. Now, enter natural disasters. It seems that the land all around them is separating, causing huge earthquakes, canyons, rockfalls and lava out of the blue. Guy has a plan, and so Grug needs him if he is going to save his family. (Yes, this "splitting of the earth into continents" plot device was used in Ice Age 4. It works better here.)
We did not see the movie in 3-D, but it was visually stunning none the less. The Croods begin their journey from their cave home, which is in a canyon desert climate, but they move on to places that look like rainforests and then tropical islands. I suspect that great care was used to make the movie nonthreatening to those who prefer not to think about evolution. The animals and plants in the movie are completely unfamiliar. So, you could see the movie as depicting animals that evolution left behind, swallowed up, or you could see the movie as a fantasy with make-believe animals and plants.
What is clever about the movie is also an old conceit -- the fish out of water. How do the Croods react to fire? shoes? lakes swimming? How can they communicate with Guy, who has some pretty basic figures of speech, when the Croods have an Amelia Bedelia-like literalism? All in all, a fun night with the family.
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