While Pixar is still the gold standard for computer animated films, Dreamworks Animation has slowly but assuredly been closing the gap with offerings like Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. And while their latest offering The Croods isn’t quite as much fun as How To Train Your Dragon, it’s still a solid, entertaining, fun animated movie that the the kids will adore and that adults won’t feel like their being forced to sit through.
In pre-historic times, the Crood family has stayed alive thanks to Grug’s (a well voice-cast Nicholas Cage) philosophy that they should fear everything and that danger lurks around every corner. The family spends much of their time hiding out in their cave, venturing out only to find food every once in a while. For the most part, the family is willing to go along with Grug, since many of the stories he relates about the outside world end up with various parties dying. That is, except for his teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), who believes there’s more to the world than hiding in the cave and barely getting by.
One night, Eep sneaks out of the family cave and meets Guy, a boy who has the secret of fire and warns her that the world as they know it is coming to an end. Eventually Guy is forced to take not only Eep but the entire Crood family with him on a trek to find higher ground and survive. Of course, this sets up an inevitable conflict of leadership styles between Guy and Grug, most of which are effectively played for genuine laughs.
As I said before, The Croods is a light, fun family film that will delight younger viewers (who may want the video game based on it since it seems as if several sequences are just ripe for video game play) and not have older viewers checking their watches and wondering when it will all be over. The voice cast all perfectly fit into the roles, though the film is mostly stolen by Guy’s pet Belt, a creature that serves as both his belt and comic relief. If you’ve seen the trailers, odds are you’ve seen Belt’s main comic relief moment and thankfully the film doesn’t rely on it too much or have it get old.
Now onto the big question facing audiences — to 3-D or not 3-D. As I’ve said before, my gold standard for 3-D animated releases is Up. And while The Croods has a few moments that use 3-D to create a richer, deeper screen palate, a lot of the 3-D is used to have things fly right at the audience. The film could be seen in 2-D without losing much of the overall experience.