Walking With Cavemen
First came The Land Before Time. Then came Dinosaur. Decades later and we’re still enduring the Ice Age movies (the franchise clearly intends to last for as long as the cataclysmic event from which it takes its name) and yet Tinsel Town’s thirst for primeval based family films has not been quenched.
Enter Dreamworks’ latest offering, The Croods. Co-directed by Chris Sanders, one of the minds that brought audiences the wonderful How To Train Your Dragon, it tells the story of adventure hungry neanderthal girl Eep (Emma Stone) and the rest of her cave dwelling clan. When their world begins to seemingly end, they and a mysterious stranger (Ryan Reynolds) must embark upon a troglodytic road trip, traversing new and strange lands seeking salvation.
Its a story as ancient as its subject matter; probably first featured amongst the Palaeolithic paintings found in the Cave of Altamira. Devoid of the sparkle present in How To Train Your Dragon or the first two Shrek movies, The Croods lack of originality very nearly proves to be fatal. Its prehistoric domesticity may as well have been lifted straight from The Flintstones; its grouchy patriarch Grug (Nicholas Cage) shares more than a few of his brutish characteristics with a certain green ogre; and flame haired independent heroine Eep is pretty much flame haired, independent heroine Merida from last year’s Oscar winning Brave – just a bit more lovesick.
However, after swallowing an hour’s worth of bland storytelling, Sanders (and his co-director and co-writer Kirk De Micco) suddenly decide to kick into gear and go all out for the movie’s last stand. Because of this, The Croods‘s final act really does deliver; eventually managing to match the gorgeous visuals present with a surprisingly thrilling and touchingly sentimental finale. It’s such a great shame it takes over sixty of its ninety eight minutes to up its game and evolve (pun intended) into something really rather brilliant.
Despite its uneven nature the film has two saving graces: the aforementioned spectacular animation, and Alan Silvestri‘s sometimes delicate, nearly always triumphant score. Its a great composition, fun and full of energy, and helps to nudge the movie along nicely. A lovely piece of work.
While overall better than Pixar’s Brave, The Croods is still just a two star movie with a four star finale. Its plodding, entirely unoriginal narrative is made all the more frustrating because of a strong final third. However, when it succeeds it really is a lot of fun. It never reaches the heady highs of some of the studio’s other animated films, but I can think of worse ways to spend an hour and a half. Just wait for the DVD.
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