DVD Review - The Croods (Oscar Review)

The 86th Academy Award nominations were announced on January 16, 2014. I'm now doing my best to see all the recognized films before the air date of the actual Oscars ceremony on March 2nd. Most of which I have seen, but for one reason or another there are a few I missed. This one is one such. The Croods was nominated for one Oscar, Best Animated Feature.

Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco have co-written and co-directed a story that at its center is the basic tug-of-war between conservatism and liberalism, traditionalism and progressivism. The heart of it is the instinct of keeping things the same and staying where you are versus the impulse to change the status quo and leaving to go some place new.

This is a tug-of-war whose victor is always predictable. If you look at human history, this war has always been waged. The fact that humans have spread like wildfire throughout the world seems to prove that progressivism normally ends up on top. Humans in general have never stayed where they are. They migrate. They change. They evolve.

Sanders and DeMicco's story focuses on a caveman named Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, who wants to stay in his cave where he and his family are safe from large predators. Grug's daughter Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, wants to venture out of the cave and explore the world. The splitting of the tectonic plates into the seven continents forces Grug and his family to decide what their future will be. Given human history, the decision is obvious.

The best of the movie though is Grug and his family acting on that decision. The film becomes at that point a road trip movie. Because it's the early Quaternary period, which is when geologists think mankind started to rise on Earth, it allows Sanders and DeMicco to use their creativity to conceive of what life was like. What they imagine might as well as be life on an alien planet.

It could be akin to Pandora in Avatar (2009). Grug and his family encounter all kinds of weird and colorful creatures. It's beautiful and wondrous to behold. It ignites the childlike sense of discovery that is crucial for adventures like this.

The character design is brilliant, not simply in look but in movement. Grug and Eep are primitive humans. As such, they behave like primitives, like animals. The way they walk, particularly the way they run, is so much like an animal would. It's quite gorilla or ape-like.

Yet, the point is to show humanity leave behind animal instincts and embrace higher intelligence and reason. Oddly, the character of Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds, is the instrument of Grug and his family leaving behind those instincts. The comedy comes in Grug's resistance to Guy and his bringing of the Cenzoic era's first Age of Enlightenment.

There's also some modern-day running gags injected here like father vs. mother-in-law as well as father vs. daughter's boyfriend. It definitely had me laughing, laughing because it got me invested in these anti-Flintstones, fight-or-flight representations.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for some scary action.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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