Appreciating “The Croods” as a well-made animation feature film for family audiences, my mind went astray and reflected on one small memory from my childhood years. As a little nerdy movie fan, I constantly watched movies through the VHS tapes rented from the local rental shops in my neighbourhood, and I sometimes got the information about interesting movies through the trailers included in those VHS tapes. One of the impressive ones I particularly remember well is the trailer of Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “Quest for Fire”(1981); watching its trailer, I got interested in how those primitives in that film learned something new about themselves while interacting with others, and I was later intrigued by the fact that Annaud had the actors speak in a rudimentary language specially invented for the film.
That movie was the main source of minor distraction I experienced while I was enjoying “The Croods”. I was well aware of that its story is basically a fantasy tale where you have to put aside some of your common sense and scientific knowledge, but, while watching its primitive characters speaking in perfect English and occasionally exchanging some new words and their definitions, I could not help but think about how our ancestors said the words like ‘fire’ or ‘joke’ or ‘sun’ in their ancient primitive languages. When one character used the word ‘brain’ at certain point, I even briefly ruminated on whether he really saw a real brain. Did he crack a skull, and discover a brain inside it, and then define it as ‘brain’ for himself? And, above all, how did the main characters in the film come to have a surname like ‘Crood’? Was it derived from some ancient onomatopoeic word, I wonder?
But this odd thought inside my mind did not seriously disrupt my enjoyment with “The Croods”, whose characters are as modern as “The Flinstones” in case of their personalities. Grug Crood(voiced by Nicholas Cage) is a dim but mighty patriarch of his family who always puts the safety of his family first, and his sensible wife Ugga(voiced by Catherine Keener) usually functions as the voice of reason for her husband, and they have three children between them. There is also Grug’s aging mother-in-law Gran(voiced by Cloris Leachman), and, of course, her presence is always annoyance to her son-in-law who frequently hopes that she will get eternal peace someday.
Living in wilderness has been pretty hard for the Croods in these days. Most of their human neighbours are dead due to various reasons, and Grug is more focused on their survival with his firm rules. They hide in their cave from predators whenever it gets dark, and he always emphasizes to his children that they should not be outside their habitat and they should not be curious because it will cost their lives. I understand his intention is purely good, but his teaching method reminds me a lot of those misguided parents trying to shield their children from the world outside just because they believe they must cover their kids from all the dangers and evils roaming around our world.
Well, most of children are bound to grow up and become curious and rebellious in the end, and Grug’s daughter Eep(voiced by Emma Stone) is no exception. She is not very happy about her dear dad’s strict regulations like any teenager girls in our modern civilization, and she is compelled to see the world outside the narrow valley where their cozy cave is located inside. At one point, she even sneaks out of the cave during one night while not being noticed by anyone, but, like many dads in the past, the present, and the future, Grug does not accept well that his daughter is no longer a cute little girl but a big feisty girl who can take care of herself.
And then two big changes arrive to change their life forever. First one comes through a sudden appearance of Guy(voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a young man who is not particularly strong even compared to Eep but knows lots of things including making fire, which the Croods have never seen before. While her daughter is being attracted to this stranger, Grug has lots of reasons to be cranky about that as a father who does not want to be a father-in-law yet and as a leader who does not want his authority threatened. I think he should think about the future of his family line, but, as I observed from a reaction of one of my friends when he found that his little daughter had a boyfriend, the mind of a protective father is not always rational.
Meanwhile, as Guy notifies the Croods, their world is approaching to ‘the End’ due to the massive continental shifts on the Earth, so they must stick and move together to survive through this global catastrophe. There are lots of dangers here and there in their journey, but you can safely enjoy their adventures as entertainment because this is a family-friendly animation world where nobody gets hurt no matter how rough their CGI bodies are treated amidst the busy action sequences in which they run fast or fall from a high cliff. Even Grug’s mother-in-law, who seems to be over 60 at least, looks like she is having a hell of good time during this bumpy journey.
The directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, who also wrote the screenplay, made a good-looking animation film filled with lots of bright-colored things to be savored by our eyes. The story is slowed down at some points, but the pace is brisk overall, and some of comic sequences are funny enough to induce laughs from not only children but also their parents. When the Croods come across the new world filled with big, colorful creatures who look like the products of deranged intelligent design on psychedelic mode, I was quite delighted to see these funny creatures. My favorite is a duo of mice linked by their mutual tale; seriously, how can this duo be evolutionarily advantageous, except being used as a furry living scarf or a furry skipping rope?
“The Croods” is a wholesome entertainment coupled with some nice family lessons. Its voice actors, many of whom are notable movie actors, give nice voice performances while working well along with each other. Though he does not appear on the screen, I am sort of glad that Nicholas Cage finally works in something good after appearing in several regrettable bad movies which did not deserve his talent.
Still, my mind lingers on “Quest for Fire” even at this point. If you are going to show “The Croods” to your kids, I am not against your decision at all because, as far as I could see, the kids sitting around me loved its every gag and joke and we all had a good time together. But, if you want your kids to be more curious about our world and ourselves, I think you also should show them “Quest for Fire”. It’s a R-rated film, but you may do them a big favor.