By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Croods are a prehistoric nuclear family, and The Croods is their story.
It’s an animated adventure comedy about the need of the Crood family — virtually all of their neighbors having been lost to the hostile environment — to get the heck out of their current cave if they are to go on living.
Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, is the head of the cave-dwelling family, which includes his wife (Catherine Keener), mother-in-law (Cloris Leachman), and three kids.
As Grug constantly preaches, they must never leave the cave after dark because all that waits in the darkness is death. His oft-repeated double-negative advice to his loved ones: “Never not be afraid.”
When Grug’s inquisitive teenage daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), his eldest, bravely but naughtily sneaks out at night, thus leaving the safety of the cave behind, and meets a nomad named Guy (Ryan Reynolds), an imaginative toolmaker who also knows how to make and control fire, her overprotective and paranoid but loving dad strenuously objects.
Then Guy warns the Croods about an imminent landscape shift and the urgency of them reaching higher ground.
Sure enough, there is an earthquake and the Crood brood must leave their cave and head out on one of the world’s first road trips, where they will have to adapt to new conditions and confront new dangers if they are to survive. And it’s Cage’s stubbornly set-in-his-ways paterfamilias who will have to learn to be flexible.
Writer-directors Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch) and Kirk Di Micco (Space Chimps), working from a story they co-wrote with John Cleese (yep, that John Cleese), evoke “The Flintstones” but quickly surpass it in ambitiousness and quality, what with all the parallels with modern families.
But there’s mercifully little of the anachronistic humor, mostly aimed at adults, that we associate with it.
Instead, they pitch their film (originally titled “Crood Awakening”) at the youthful audience that has responded to the Ice Age flicks.
Yes, this is a kidflick -– although it’s PG-rated because of peril and slapstick violence that might frighten younger children -– but one that should please discerning adults in attendance as well.
And co-leads Cage and Stone contribute vivid characters, expressive line readings, and a poignant father-daughter relationship.
The smooth mixture of family dynamics, sight gags, frenetic action sequences, and an arresting array of inventively strange hybrid creatures makes for a stimulating, family-friendly journey. To say nothing of the dynamic 3-D process, which is an unnecessary embellishment but an embellishment nonetheless.
So we’ll forage for 3 stars out of 4 for this delightful Stone Age comedy celebrating family togetherness and adventurousness. Nothing crude about The Croods, in which the caveman finally caves.