‘The Croods’ Rip a Funny Page Out of Pre-History

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CHICAGO – Good cartoons know that we’re in on the joke, that all the surreal actions will satisfy our basic funny bone. Great cartoons give us a little bit more, an empathy or a story that really goes beyond expectations. “The Croods” is a great cartoon, and a wonderful achievement in animation evolution.

First, “The Croods” are goofy, a stone age family that consists of the loony dad, the doting Mom, the crass mother-in-law, the saucy daughter, the hapless son and the feral, animal-like baby (the typical family unit). It bases itself on a theme, believe it or not, which moves it from the good-to-great realm. It is about enlightenment, the old “thinking outside the box.” How do we as a civilization move forward anyway? With that type of thinking. How it is symbolized, and how it is realized? Through the use of light. The light of the sun, the new light of fire and the need to move towards that illumination for the next phase. It is almost ethereal, until of course someone gets smacked in the noggin yet remains unhurt. Oh yeah, it’s a cartoon.

Grug (the voice of Nicolas Cage) is the father/protector of a large brood in prehistoric times. Most of his responsibilities – Ugga the Mother (Catherine Keener), Thunk the Son (Clark Duke) and mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) – follow his law of survival, which is to remain fearful at all times. And everyone abides by that law except for Eep (Emma Stone) who longs to follow the light of the sun.

The Croods
Meet ‘The Croods’
Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation

Enter a nomad named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). He not only follows his own rules but reinvents them through his “thinking,” a radical new concept. Eep immediately falls for him, and his mysterious portable light, called fire. Grug is skeptical and of course fearful of these new developments, but as the land around them literally starts to crumble, the Croods family will have to risk a brave new world.

There is a simplicity, and therefore a beauty, about the notion of en”light”enment that establishes the theme in the film. As writer/directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders told HollywoodChicago.com, the theme has endless possibilities, and each one of those possibilities can go in any direction. Grug is the past, Guy is the future, but what each of them knows can help the other. Yes, this is an animated film, but it has that emotion of real life, how we struggle to think outside our own repeated habits.

The film also looks terrific, enhanced by the optional 3D (recommended). De Micco and Sanders have created the “Croodacious Period,” the time-between-time. Several of the predators are inventions of pre-evolution, like flying turtles and wild combinations of other familiar animals. This is part of the fun in both the family’s discoveries and our own within the film. It’s a visual treat, to go along with the emotion and laughs.

And it is funny. De Micco and Sanders have the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and the surreal Silly Symphonies of Walt Disney as their template, plus the fact (according to them) that the Croods has ultra-thick bones. There is plenty of slapstick, pratfalls and just plain hilarious cartoon physics in “The Croods,” amazingly enjoyable for both the adult fanciers, and for the laugh potential with the kids. Even creator Chris Sanders gets in on the act, giving voice to Guy’s sidekick named Belt (bom-bom-baaaaah!)

Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds
Fiery Twosome: Eep (voice of Emma Stone) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) in ‘The Croods’
Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation

The set up to the adventure is a bit stretched, but the introduction of Guy is quite humorous even if its overlong, and Ryan Reynolds extends his voice talent to full measure in the character. Nicolas Cage and Emma Stone are also highlights, breaking the mold for voice over work by applying a sense of feeling for their characters. They are clashing, but they’re also coming together at the same time.

Croods, meet the Croods, they’re the modern stone age evolutionary dream. From the town of DreamWorks, they’re a place right out of pre-history. You know the rest of it. Enjoy this wonderful film.

“The Croods” opens everywhere on March 22nd. See local listings for 3D show times and theaters. Featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman. Written and Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micoo. Rated “PG

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Senior Staff Writer

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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