Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Croods

Get out your saber-toothed mice and flying bird-turtles, we're reviewing The Croods!

The Croods are a prehistoric family, led by their father and leader, Grug(Nicholas Cage), who keeps them safe in their cave.  Eep(Emma Stone) hates living in the cave, and when the cave is destroyed, the Crood family must follow a newcomer, Guy(Ryan Reynolds), to get to the mountain and escape the continental shift!

Don't be rude! Go see The Croods! How is that not their headline for all movie posters?  I'm amazed at the satirical higher ground they've decided to take with the advertising.  They could have taken a page from The Smurfs and gone much more groan-inducing. We'll know if the sequel is good or not if one of the characters is advertised with having a "Crood atitude".

Anyways, The Croods is a moving and funny, visually stunning animated adventure. It's pretty great is what I'm getting at.  I was not expecting it to be as good as it is! I don't even know where to begin. Nicholas Cage? Yes let's start with Nicholas Cage.

Nicholas Cage stars in an actually good and not ridciulous movie, and he's perfect for the part. It's strange how much Eep is advertised as being the main character, because arguably Grug has the bigest character arc and most emotional parts of the movie.  And Nicholas Cage does an amazing job!  He is just as crazy and nonsensical as he usually is, but it fits with Grug's emotional outbursts and visual craziness. He gets some of the most moving parts of the movie, and possibly the best line, which I won't spoil, but is just beautiful.
Not to say that Eep or any of the other characters are one-dimensional. Eep is a strong female charater, like literally strong. It's great how they've almsot switched gender roles for Eep and Guy, because Eep is the character that is strong and can hit things, but Guy is pretty weak and needs to utilize his "brain"(one of his many inventions). But Eep is a fun, well-rounded character that they give enough freedom to be flawed and have a little life. I also really like Ugga(Catherine Keener), the mom who has to keep everyone together yet still has time to enjoy the little things.  Credit has to be given also for making Eep a bulky hairy character and not the usual dainty waif with super-human strength.

Speaking of great character design, Yes there is. Not just the Croods themsleves, but all of the inventive prehistoric creatures that pop up.  There are whale-bison and skunk-dog-dinos, and mammoth-tusked mice, and an especially cute multi-colored tiger with a huge head and paws that better come out in plush form soon. Everything is so colorful and imaginative, you get the sense that this is a whole new world(Aladdin pun not intended). I cannot wait for the artbook to come out.

All the imaginiatve color and design goes a long way to make the 3D extremely worth watching. It gives a sense of being right in the lush jungle and the rolling deserts more than just having stuff pop out at you. The details of skin and hair are the best they've ever been, but the particle effects are simply astounding. It's worth the extra charge to feel like you have to push through a layer of ash or dust to see what's going on.

Oh you want to talk about the animation of this animated movie?  It is phenominal. It's cartoony and slapstick and has a ton of weight to it. One of the earliest sequence is of the Crood family running to get their daily meal, and it looks so exhilrating to run at high-speed on all fours. I would say I want this to be a videogame, but I'm sure they're already working on a videogame tie-in and it's probably terrible and that just gives me a sad so let's move on damn it!  Even if you can't play as a prehistoric cro magnon running through the desert, climbing rock cliffs, or battling tiger-owls, you can at least watch it and dream.

If I had to pick out any problems, it would be the opening voice over of Eep explaining her family and the story we're about to see, which, even though is a beautiful animation in it's own style, is completely extraneous. Really, you could cut that whole sequence and still figure out who's who and whats going on. Also, whey they're making up words for the new things and experiences, it doesn't make sense. When Thunk(Clarke Duke) says the fire is "burning" him, they've just found out about fire, and burning is a word specifically pertained to fire. It would make much more sense to use a word like "injure" or "hurt" because they've never experienced buring. But considering they're all speaking perfect english, it's kind of a knitpic anyway. It also feels like a missed opportunity for humor when Guy invents something and calls it exactly what it is. Why exactly would he call a brain a "brain" and not "idea nut" or some other comical prehistoric name?

It's a nitpick when you consider the whole of the story, and how funny, entertaining and emotionally moving it is. I almost cried. Cried manly cro magnon tears that is. It's a classic story of a father losing his daughter as she's growing up while simultaneously realizing the world he knew isn't around anymore.  I really love how each of the characters learn and grow and really seem to be great foils for one another. The amazing score helps, which sounds like an action-packed Flinstones theme. And hey, there's no silly pop-music dance party at the end! Points for taking the highground, Dreamworks!

The Croods is the first great animated movie of 2013. It sets a high bar with amazing visuals, a great story with well-rounded characters, and astounding animation.

THE GOOD: Great visuals, great animation, 3D is worth it, great voice acting, especially Cage, Reynolds, and Stone, Funny, fun, cute and fun animal creatures, moving story, takes the high road in humor.

THE BAD: opening voice over is extraneous, some of the words and language doesn't make sense, soem of the inventions could have had funnier names.

THE VERDICT: $$$$$ See it! Multiple times! It's a stunning animated movie with a great story and wonderful aniamtion.

MOVIES LIEK IT: Madagascar, The Incredibles, National Lampoons Family Vacation, Brave, The Flinstones, Ice Age

ONE-SCENE METAPHOR: When the Croods and Guy hunt and kill their first big animal, Guy is horrified to see the Croods, including Eep, tear apart their meal like animals. It's one of the funniest scenes in the movie, and shows Eep is a real woman and Guy is a dainty man.

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