Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Movie Review: The Croods (2013)

The Croods is the most beautiful animated film of 2013. As a bonus, strong writing backs its eye-popping color palettes, hysterical creature designs, and fun human shapes. The soundtrack doesn’t stand out much, though.

Plot: a family of cave-dwellers must learn to survive with the help of a stranger as the world literally falls apart around them.

Character development follows formula. The narrator, Eep (voiced by the smoky Emma Stone), is a young woman who rebels against her stern father Grug’s (a creepy/manic-as-usual Nicolas Cage) rule: “Never not be afraid.” Mom Ugga (Catherine Keener) is peacekeeper, brother Thunk (Clark Duke) is a lunkhead, and Gran (Cloris Leach) disapproves of everything her son-in-law does. Oh, and there’s a feral baby.

As you can imagine, Eep makes a discovery that propels the plot, Grug learns to change eventually, and the others also learn lessons, blah blah blah. Adults know how this goes.

The newcomer into their life of tightly huddled formations is Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who has the obligatory funny animal sidekick in Belt, a sloth usually wrapped around his waist. As the odd one out, he initially takes a lot of comical abuse before being fully embraced as a member of the clan. Again, this should not come as a surprise.

Some of the best jokes include the Croods' initial reaction to fire, Grug's sustained desire to off his mom-in-law, and the times they use puppets to lure animals into traps.

The most fun in this movie is taking in all the gorgeous panoramas and outrageous animals that inhabit the Croods’ world. Where before only a giant cat/owl was their primary predator, they soon come upon much scarier monstrosities, such as a saber-tooth tiger colored like a parrot, a land whale, a carnivorous fat blue ostrich, and a swarm of pink flying…piranha? It’s hard to tell, sometimes. But it’s always amazeballs.

The themes of family, safety, creativity, and hope are strongly presented, with comedy being the preferred vehicle rather than cheesiness. The cave paintings are a clever narrative device for this, and so is Guy’s speech about the meaning of tomorrow, which the characters return to in increasingly touching ways.

Finally, the climax—where everyone must make it across a lava-filled chasm—is terrific. The ending is cute, and I shall say no more, except GO WATCH IT GUYS IT’S ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD.

This post brought to you by subzero temperatures. Happy New Year to all!

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