The Croods. Directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco. Featuring Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Catherine Keener. Rating: 6 (out of 10)
FEEDING off the colossal success of that other prehistoric franchise, Ice Age, DreamWorks hopes to attract big numbers with some big Hollywood names.
Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Nicolas Cage star as a prehistoric family on the move after their world starts crumbling around them.
Crood family patriarch Grug (Cage) has seen his neighbours gobbled up by predators, and decides that the best way to keep his family safe is to stick to their cave. "New is always dangerous" is the Crood credo. If you thought being grounded to your room was bad, try being confined to hole in a rock. Understandably, teenaged Eep (Stone) is going more than a little stir crazy hanging out with baby Sandy, mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), her dottery Gran (Cloris Leachman) and lunk-headed brother Thunk (Clark Duke, Hot Tub Time Machine). She longs to see the world beyond the cave's mouth, danger or not.
One night Eep sneaks out and encounters Guy (Reynolds), a dude her age with perfect pecs and a theory about impending doom. Plus he can make fire: how can dad compete with that?
Grug is old-school while Guy is a Renaissance man, a few million years early. This clash between old and new forms the primary discord of the tale. Add that to typical teen hormones and dad's inherent inability to let go of his little girl, and it's going to be a long epoch.
The family finds themselves on the march after their cave is destroyed. The jungle is sure a lot more colourful than the cave, with technicolour flora and fauna and giant saber-toothed kitties to match. There are even creatures caught in mid-evolution, like the Fish Cat (felinus pisceatus). But danger and wonder are found in equal measure on their journey to the promised land.
They travel en masse with Belt, the world's first pet. "What's a pet?" asks Gran. "An animal you don't eat," Guy replies. "We call those children," she answers.
The banter is peppy but wears a little thin before the film's end. On the plus side, filmmakers resist the urge to reference pop culture (a la Shrek), making The Croods a more traditional kids' movie.
The Croods has a genuine pedigree: director Chris Sanders earned Academy Award nominations for How To Train Your Dragon and Lilo and Stitch; Kirk DeMicco co-wrote and directed Space Chimps and Racing Stripes. And Roger Deakins, cinematographer of such grown-up tales as Skyfall and True Grit, has become the go-to visual effects consultant enlisted to make kids' flicks a panoramic, multi-layered experience. So far he's livened up the animated vistas of Rise of the Guardians, Rango, How To Train Your Dragon, Puss In Boots and Wall-E, and his touch undoubtedly helped make The Croods worthy of your 3-D dollars.
The Croods is populated by colourful, fanciful creatures, paving the way for novelizations, electronic games, dolls, plush toys and Croodaceous Creature Packs. (The Croods McDonaldland Happy Meal toys are already available for purchase on eBay). The film is an entertaining enough Jurassic journey, but a little more oomph to the script would've made it a great one.