This project was one I followed for a very long time. It was in some development hell from being in production from 2014-15 before it was cancelled a year later with some company merging worries. Then it got green-lit again and delayed a little bit, and finally, seven years after Grug, Eep, Guy, Ugga, Thunk, Gran, Sandy, Chunky and Douglas settled down (or at least knew how to live instead of just not die) the family is back on the big screen (though there was a TV series.)
It seems like only yesterday (and maybe it was yesterday to them) when Grug (Nicholas Cage) accepted Guy (Ryan Reynolds) into the pack. The barrier might be coming up again now that it’s more than hinted Guy and Eep (Emma Stone) are a…thing. It’s even getting in the way of surviving ambushes from the new and dangerous. Then during their exploring they come across a giant wall they briefly theorize is the end of the world, the limit, like the planet is a coliseum. But they break it down, and come across other humans. Three to be exact. Phil (Peter Dinklage), Hope (Leslie Mann) and Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran), last name Betterman. For The Croods, it’s a new age indeed, except for Guy, where it’s an old age, because he actually has history with these people. Their way of operation in this world is basically more, um…more of the sort of world where humans need not get their hands dirty or worry about getting too much sleep. Some of the family loves it here, and others are reminiscent of when the family was more together and more in danger and could form a kill circle at the ready. And what could this mean for Eep and Guy?
Confession time: In 2013, I felt the first Croods was the one who deserved to win all the attention and love in the animation field. I felt Frozen was beautiful but logically flawed and too in love with itself. Whereas The Croods was just as delectable as How to Train Your Dragon with flawless portrayals of exploring the uncharted world, building a better life with your family, and, best of all in my opinion, chubby instead of slim main characters. Eep and Ugga (Catherine Keener) do not have the conventional build of female protagonists, and there is never a sense, nor is there a sense with anyone else of the family, that they’re uncomfortable with who they are. And the two of them, alongside even Gran, (Cloris Leachman) are fully capable on their own of fighting and planning. The women in this series rock.
Confession Time Part 2: When it comes to the Pixar-Dreamworks rivalry, I like Dreamworks Animation more. Pixar has made more masterpieces, I admit that. In fact, two of them are the top animated movies I’ve ever seen, ever. Dreamworks has a movie that takes the bronze medal in that department, but Pixar have the top “deux”. But when it comes to establishing bases and keeping in connection with beloved characters, Dreamworks is so much better. Some movies are classics that are perfectly fine as they are, but others are just positively begging for more. Dreamworks has managed to keep the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and How to Train your Dragon films spinning with sequels that were not just cash grabs but loving expansions. If they were in charge of The Incredibles, that movie probably would’ve had more, maybe even too many sly superhero references, but we wouldn’t have had to wait 14 years for the next one, and then have one that was terrific but without the impression the next one will be right on its way either.
But now, finally, for some stuff on The Croods: A New Age. Dreamworks Animation is known for storylines with sometimes sugary but sensible lessons for kids, and some adults willing to pay attention. Even Captain Underpants had one, with being able to laugh at yourself once in a while. The moral in this entry is that there’s more than one way to live a life, and if two ways of life clash, it’s better to make the best of both of them. The Bettermans are the American Dream and the Croods are the Military General’s dream, one Hakuna Matata land and the other Self-Esteem land. I like that it uses the same strategy that the underlooked and glorious Arthur Christmas does; presenting two ways of life, and looking at the pros and cons of both, and how some just work better for others, but that doesn’t mean you should keep yourself away from the idea of change.
The animation is as magnificent as ever, Emma Stone truly doesn’t phone in any performance ever, and it takes some different turns than expected if you think it’s going the same direction as other animated films, like Smurfs: The Lost Village. In fact, even if it didn’t delight me as much as this year’s SpongeBob movie, it was still a delightful 87 minutes.
So now time for the bummer paragraph. I gave an A to the last movie, and the main reason this is a step down is for one flaw both movies have. In the first one, Grug invents the “hug”, but I sincerely doubt that gesture of affection was not made up till then. Felt cheesily sentimental. And here they overdo a bit of the invention humour, plus there’s a lot of chuckle-worthy moments at this final boss-fight-type ending, but I preferred the somber type of climax from the first. There’s one of those Shrek-like jokes in said climax that kids are meant to see one way and adults fall on the floor laughing from seeing another way, and whether it is too raunchy, I don’t know. It is memorable, and maybe even a little empowering if you can look at it that way, so maybe that’s not a negative. But one other thing I want to bring up is the movie begins with the family searching for “tomorrow”, but the ending of the last film involved them finding a very peaceful place to live. There’s no mention of why they decided to leave it.
It’s more cartoon-esque and light on the heart than the last installment, and a little unnecessarily hyper, but what can I say? An innocent cartwheel of a movie like this one doesn’t deserve deep criticism.