Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Croods review

Behind Pixar, Dreamworks animation has the best track record when it comes to film quality. These are the people that brought us Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon. But they have also brought us stinkers like Puss in Boots, Madagascar 2 and the last two Shrek films. It's a mixed bag at some point. Out of all of Dreamworks films that I have seen, their latest effort, the prehistoric comedy The Croods is the weirdest. Not in terms of content, but in terms of execution. It's split right in half in terms of quality, with the first half being a mess and the second half being utterly terrific. It's got a lot of good things going on in the second half and if this film is 100% like its second half, it's an instant classic.

The Croods tells the story of a prehistoric family called the Croods. They are comprised of Eep (Emma Stone), Ugga (Catharine Keener), Thunk (Chris Duke), Gran (Cloris Leachman), Sandy (Randy Thom) and their patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage). Grug is afraid of the world and thinks that the only safe place is the family cave. His rebellious daughter Eep wants to go out and explore the world and try new things, but Grug is strongly against exploration. One night, Eep goes out and follows a light. Then she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds). He tells her that the world is ending and that they must get to the mountain for survival. The Croods then becomes less exposition heavy and more heartwarming and fun. In my opinion.

The first half of the film is an absolute mess. It's boring, exposition-heavy and just an absolute slog to get through. The best animated movies are the ones that create a world, put good characters in and are clever in their humor. The Croods does two of those things: one throughout the whole movie and one in the second half. But it's pretty odd in terms of creating a fully functional animated world for it's characters and humor to inhabit. It tries to make it seem like a prehistoric comedy and it has some truth to it, but it caters to the ADD generation way too much and sacrifices any sort of accuracy for bright and flashy colors. This is a nitpick but it's noticeable. The characters run around like cheetahs and there are green monkeys, so I figured that I would point it out.

I don't really have many complaints that I can point out besides the sheer and utter stupidity that is the first half of The Croods. There's too much physical humor in a film that wants to be somewhat serious and it's pretty dumb. I was really bored. Halfway through, The Croods wakes up and becomes a Pixar-esque heartwarming family comedy. It just couldn't get the fire started fast enough.

Once The Croods gets going, it really gets going. The second half is the culmination of all the ideas and humor that didn't pan out in the first half of the film. It becomes funny. There are better jokes in the second half. It becomes a very heartwarming animated adventure. The relationship between Grug and Eep becomes fully fleshed out and very enjoyable to watch. It also becomes a commentary on Grug's inability to "evolve" and learn to accept new ideas and become a better person. The second half is just a better movie. It's very entertaining.

The voice cast is good. I don't really judge voice casts because it's a different kind of acting but there were a few actors that I felt were worth mentioning. Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage are really good as Grug and Eep. I don't know why, but they just bring their characters to life.

My only other problem with The Croods is that it caters to all the latest animation stereotypes that have been brought on in the last few years. It's got bright, beautiful colors and a little creature that makes noises like in Despicable Me. It's not a problem, but I think that one of the main problems with the first half of The Croods is that it tries to make a film out of its wonderful animation. Not gonna fly.

The Croods is 1/2 a D movie and one half a B+ movie. I think that the first half is unfortunately necessary to get us introduced to the characters (the execution could certainly be better), but in the end it pays off and I hope that they make a sequel. If you're a parent with kids, you'll find redeeming qualities in the second half of The Croods. It's beautifully animated and it's got a deep enough message. You don't see too many animated films like that.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                                (6/10)

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