The Croods is great fun. A visual treat. And despite appraisals I read from other reviewers when the film debuted theatrically, it actually manages to deliver a wealth of important messages to young viewers even as it thoroughly engages them with its almost non-stop action. It also, I should add, features the voice talents of Nicolas Cage and Catherine Keener, who play a caveman couple. And you can’t go wrong with that casting! (The film also stars Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke. So Cage and Keener aren’t the only talent of note here.)
The film centers on a caveman family called, you guessed it, the Croods, who spend their days and nights fearing for their lives. That is, except for the eldest daughter Eep (Stone), who longs for something more than cowering in fear in a cave. She ultimately gets her wish when the land mass of Pangaea suddenly begins to break apart and the family has to head for higher ground under the guidance of an outsider (Reynolds) if they hope to survive.
There’s a lot to this story thematically—as there is with any worthwhile family fare. On the surface, the film is about the need for families to stick together and about the necessity of opening oneself up to new experiences. But on another, more subtle level, the film is also about adaptation and the gradual processes of evolution. Sure, the writers may have missed the opportunity to also tackle issues of race in the clash between the Cro-Magnon Crood patriarch (Cage) and the Homo sapien outsider, Guy (Reynolds), but I’d say working in a bit evolution is all the edge one picture needs. Any more thematic content and they definitely would have run the risk of mixing messages.!
In addition to being surprisingly rich thematically, The Croods is also quite the visual spectacle, and that comes as no surprise when you learn that director of photography Roger Deakins, a long-time collaborator of Joel and Ethan Coen, served as a visual consultant on The Croods. Under the guidance of Deakins, the depiction of Pangaea’s devastation is absolutely breath-taking, with unbelievably realistic animation where such things as smoke and falling rocks are concerned. Additionally, the animators devised a host of original animals to populate the world of The Croods. Most of these creatures are merely mash-ups of real world animals, such as the film’s birds with turtle shells or the combination cat-owls, and a handful of them are a bit predictably dopey looking. But for the most part they add welcome character to what might otherwise have been a bland palette, environment-wise.
I feel like families with children have likely already purchased The Croods on home video, but if you have yet to pick it up and are on the fence about it, my assessment is: don’t wait. It’s terrific popcorn entertainment with surprising depth, and that’s more than you can say for a lot of family films. The Croods is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment!