Leave it to animation vet Chris Sanders to come up with yet another entertaining animated adventure. The man, who started in the industry over two decades ago at Disney before moving on to DreamWorks, co-directed two of my absolute animated favorites: 2002’s wonderfully offbeat Lilo & Stitch, and 2010’s thrilling How to Train Your Dragon.
The Croods is his third turn in the co-director’s chair, and his third variation on the theme of shaking up established norms. Here the lives of a family of cave people are disturbed when the land around them, already filled with life-threatening danger, begins its inevitable physical upheaval. And so, led by its overprotective patriarch (Nicolas Cage), the clan sets out to find a new home.
The story is initially narrated by the family’s teen daughter (Emma Stone), who is this film’s version of Dragon’s Hiccup. She wants to try doing things a new way and see the world and finds her family, especially her father, boring even though she obviously loves them. The handsome cave boy (Ryan Reynolds) who happens into their lives only furthers her desire to see what’s out there.
Yet while the story is hardly original, there’s quite a lot to like here. I imagine kids will enjoy the visual aspects—the family’s zippy first-act tag-team effort to acquire a giant egg for dinner, and the myriad interesting creatures, some dangerous (a pack of piranha-like birds and a big-headed tiger) and some nice (Reynolds’ pet sloth), that Sanders and co-director Kirk DeMicco dream up.
What sold it for me, aside from the visual splendor of some of the scenes (including the third-act continent-cracking cataclysm) was the voice work. Cage, especially, is well-cast as a caveman, an amusingly crazy brute one minute, touching the next. Stone brings splendid spunk to her part (fittingly, her cartoon self resembles her real-life self), and Reynolds is rapid-fire funny.
I certainly can’t leave out Cloris Leachman, who earns probably the most laughs, rather appropriately, as the sole grandparent of the group, and Catherine Keener brings generous warmth to her role as the mother. All of which adds up to a very satisfying animated experience. Sanders is three for three in my book now. If he keeps going like this, he could very well turn into the next Don Bluth. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 10/1/13