After a few years lost to dubious projects, Nicolas Cage is back — sort of. Cage lends his voice to The Croods and his off-the-wall style suits animation perfectly.
The Croods is also a return to form for DreamWorks Animation, after the disappointing Rise of the Guardians (It’s Santa! AND the Easter Bunny! IN THE SAME MOVIE! Sigh).
Plotwise, The Croods is much like Brave but its approach to teenage rebellion isn’t nearly as prim and proper. A clan of Neanderthals has outlived friends and neighbours by hiding in a cave whenever the slightest threat arises. Grug (Cage), the overprotective father, deals effectively with every emergency — but when his daughter hits puberty, he’s dumbfounded. Eep (Emma Stone) is as resourceful as Grug, but much more inclined to explore than to take cover. By the time a dashing suitor appears and the continent starts drifting, Eep’s mind is set.
The story is hardly revolutionary (Ice Age mined this territory to death) but the characters make it work. Grug is a troglodyte in every sense of the word and he doesn’t respond well to his world collapsing under his large feet (figuratively AND literally). Eep may be a rebel, but she’s far more reasonable than her dad. Both fail to realize that it’s their combined skills, rather than the cave, that are keeping the family alive.
The rest of the cast is more one-note — the indestructible grandma, a feral baby/pet — but it works.
The Croods is so kinetic that it often reminded me of old Looney Tunes cartoons only with emotional stakes. Beware of the climax: it’s a tearjerker.