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What To Watch: Tar Bonding in ‘The Croods’ (2013)

A fun family adventure makes for a great time at the movies.

The Croods is a 2013 animated adventure about a caveman family who must trek through an unfamiliar fantastical world with the help of an inventive boy after their home is destroyed.

I’m not gonna mince words here. I love animated movies. Love ’em. Movies are all about escapism and nothing does that better than a created world of pure fantasy. From classic Disney movies to the great artistic contributions of Don Bluth, I’m all in when it comes to this genre. Sure, not all hit the mark, and in fact, many are subpar, riding on the coattails of greater films, but every once in awhile, something comes along that is fresh and just lights up the imagination. Such is the case with the underrated 2013 DreamWorks production of The Croods, a computer generated film with a talented voice cast and a fun, family story that challenges as well as entertains. Let’s take a look.

THEY STORY: In prehistoric times, a family of cave dwellers named the Croods live a sheltered, well-protected life under the watchful eye of the patriarch, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage). It ain’t easy as there are many dangers and Grug has a lot to keep watch of, which includes his own family of late, most especially his older teen daughter Eep (Emma Stone), a girl with a curious streak who understands her father’s worries but is overwhelmed by the wonder of the world just outside her cave. She wants … no, needs, to explore. Here mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), grandmother (Cloris Leachman), and little brother and sister are content to stay indoors, but she is barely contained and presses Grug to allow her to live a little more. She sneaks out one day and meets a boy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds) who warns her of impending doom and sure enough, not long after, an earthquake strikes, destroying their home and sending them off to the wilds. Now, with Guy’s help, they must look for a new home and survive the ravages of a changing world.

The Croods
The Croods, 2013 © DreamWorks Animation

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Believe it or not, the film’s story is written by none other than John Cleese and was originally meant to be a stop-motion animated film before DreamWorks got hold of it and made the decision to go with computer animation. A children’s movie at it’s core, it’s meant to be like many of the sort with a tale of teens trying to find their identity, and so it is with Eeg who is feeling the pangs within her to stretch out on her own. The message here is that without experiencing the ‘dangers’ of the real world, we never truly live and the story does a good job making that truth a colorful and exciting adventure.

The Croods
The Croods, 2013 © DreamWorks Animation

Aside from the story, what’s best is probably the art style, with the Croods a heavily-stylized human form with long arms and short legs who can leap and jump about like primates. The world they live in is far from realistic or historical, with creatures of wild fantastical design, like birds with turtle shells, big cats with feathers, and humpback whales that walk on land. It’s all very creative and imaginative, sure to keep youngins and grownups inspired.

The Croods
The Croods, 2013 © DreamWorks Animation

A GREAT MOMENT: While the film is not really a gut-buster in terms of laughs, there are plenty of amusing moments as Grug struggles to keep his family safe as new things come at him a mile a minute. While all of that is funny and along the way there are all kinds of jabs at linking the old with the new, such as the invention of shoes and sunglasses, it is the relationships, most especially between Grug and Eep, that truly define the movie.

The Croods
The Croods, 2013 © DreamWorks Animation

That said, there is a great moment between Grug and Guy that is one of a few surprisingly emotional moments that evolve from the action. See Guy is a ‘modern man’, the next step as it were in evolution. He’s got long legs, smaller teeth and an actual forehead. He’s also got fire and he knows not only the catastrophic changes happening in the world but also how to survive them. This puts Grug at a disadvantage, and when Guy successful saves the family a number of times, they choose to follow him instead of Grug, who wants only to shelter everyone in a cave. That’s not living, Eeg tells him. Just not dying.

The Croods
The Croods, 2013 © DreamWorks Animation

Angered by it all, Grug chases Guy and they end up stuck in a tar pit, something we learn is familiar to the boy in a story that affects Grug as well. With the two forced to just listen to each other, a lot is learned and it’s here where Grug finally understands the changes he needs to make to keep himself and his family alive. Sure, it’s followed by a goofy puppet show, but hey, the good with the bad.

THE TALLY: The Croods is a fun family adventure with a lot of unexpected moments and plenty of teachable ones for little ones. Filled with great visuals and bright, funny characters, the story is an impactful one even with all the purposeful silliness. All about family and finding compromises to stay together, The Croods is a good time at the movies. It’s what to watch.

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