In some ways, The Croods is similar to Escape From Planet Earth. Its themes are alike, and neither one is all that original.
At its core, this is a family-drama road movie, and, much like We’re the Millers, it hits the notes its genre requires. It has the proper conflicts, the requisite character growth and the necessary moments of familial bond. Which is all fine, except that the flick fails to deliver anything unexpected.
There are still strengths, however. At times, the animation is shockingly impressive, especially in the way land masses resemble coral reef and give us visual cues as to what sorts of physical changes will eventually transpire. The family members look enough alike that we can tell they share genetics, but also different enough that they work as individuals. The color palette is beautiful, as is the digital lighting, at least partially because the film contrasts The Croods’ cave with the path to Tomorrow so well.
The action sequences are compelling.
The voice actors are excellent all around. Even Ryan Reynolds impresses, and Nicolas Cage stands out. Truthfully, these might be the best actors I’ve seen in an animated film all year.
The sentimental moments manage to be somewhat touching, manage to avoid feeling emotionally manipulative, despite their predictability.
Yet, the picture also has its share of flaws, most notably in characterization of Guy (Reynolds). The screenplay never bothers to define his backstory in any detail, so we do not understand why or how he has evolved to discover fire, invent shoes or devise other clever ideas. Nor do we have any sense just how he knows the world is going to end.
Moreover, the rest of characters never advance beyond familial archetypes.
Some of the escape plans are so fantastically far-fetched that they stretch credulity, even in an animated feature marketed to children.
Ultimately, The Croods succeeds, I suppose, but only barely. It is entertaining for children and not so cliche that adults can’t appreciate it, but the movie is also predictable, unoriginal and otherwise flawed.