My word, now, there's been a lot of controversy about modern entertainment's crude interpretation of the family unit, but I never thought that it would get to where subject matter this offensive was put into children's films. I mean, this film is so crude that it even handles the spelling of the word "crude" croodly-I mean, crudely, although, in all fairness, this film is set in a time where they didn't have spelling... or names, let alone surnames. Man, I can't believe that I just wasted two sentences meandering around a pun, but hey, I'm not the only one doing it, because Rotten Tomatoes crowbars in "evolved" into its consensus, and even informally precedes the word with an "ahem" in parentheses so that you know that it's on purpose. Even this film's cast is rich with shameless self-awareness, because you know that they just got Emma [u]Stone[/u] for her own last name, and got Nicolas Cage because he actually looks like a caveman in real life. Seriously, I hate to continue my "crude" puns, but the Grug Crood character really does look like a slightly crude interpretation of Cage, and the filmmakers probably would have gone all-out with modeling the design after Cage if it wasn't for that distinct likelihood that they would be risking good reviews by having critics actually see Cage. Hey, maybe the reviews are as good as they are because Cage hasn't had a critical hit since the prehistoric era, and this film reminds critics of that time. Shoot, it's reminding me of a little too much, because as much as I like this film, it's not exactly original.
There's even limited creativity to potentially unique animations, and when it comes to the creativity of this narrative, the limitations are even greater, resulting in a wave of tropes that exacerbate a certain blandness which is prominent enough through the natural shortcomings of this formulaic story. This story concept is pretty thin, with hardly any depth, and it's the natural limitations which result from this thinness which undercut the final product about as much as anything, with matters being made all the worse by conventions, as well as other writing issues. Kirk DeMicco's and Chris Sanders's often intentionally inaccurate script is often a little too over-the-top for you to run with this mythology, even within humor and set pieces that are often too cheesy for their own good, sometimes to an obnoxious degree. Pacing sometimes gets to be too brisk for comfort, joining overtly fluffy energy in a sense of frantic hurrying, intensified by the blatant skimming of such elements as extensive exposition that leave the final product to feel rather undercooked, with about as much interest in colorful set pieces as anything. The film's attention to style over substance gets to be repetitious, if not monotonous after a while, with a kiddy superficiality that betrays potential and makes it difficult to deny the other attributes which hold this effort back. I'm all for frantically superficial family fun, and this film delivers on just that just fine on the whole, but there are times where the film gets too carried away in providing only so much depth, until the final product ends up coming closer than many are saying to, well, mediocrity. I can't say that I'm particularly fond of certain moments in this effort, but on the whole, this film is fun enough to surely keep kids and adults pretty thoroughly entertained, as well as impressed by technical value.
Again, the animations are not quite as creative as you might expect, and they're often too frantic to hold a genuine sense of live, but liveliness is still pretty well-distinguished through richly colorful and truly memorable designs (Yes, I, as a cat person, just have to point out how adorable the machairodont was) that are arguably at their most vibrant during dynamic, if busy action set pieces. Visual style isn't terribly outstanding, but the pure energy pumped into the animation makes the visuals rich enough to match freneticism with well-realized liveliness that settles obnoxiousness, further settled by a genuine liveliness to the performances. Yeah, I've joked about them getting Emma Stone because her last name fits with the prehistorical themes, and even getting Nicolas Cage because he's always looked prehistorical, but this really is a well-selected cast of talents who make sure that their being well-cast pays off through a delightful energy that stays more controlled than the storytelling. Actually, the performances and highlights in animation both breathe more life into this film than the narrative, which is too much style and not enough substance, though not exactly cleansed of heart that is kept pumping by generally decent scripting. As I've said time and again, the fluff within Kirk DeMicco's and Chris Sanders' script is often carried away, to the point of watering down this story's engagement value, but thematic depth is still pretty well-structured, while humor and set pieces prove to be generally sharp enough to be more fun than frantic. It's debatable whether or not this film's storytelling is as controlled as it should be, but this script, no matter how flawed, presents plenty of family fun on paper, and such conceptual fun goes brought to life by DeMicco's and Sanders' directorial performance, which may get to be too stylish, but generally assured enough to keep pacing fast and entertainment value high. It's not quite until the rather moving final act when storytelling becomes really inspired, yet no matter how carried away things are at times, when it's all said and done, this effort sure is a lot of fun, with enough style and dynamicity to satisfy audiences of all ages with good old-fashion family entertainment, even if that's all it can offer on the whole.
In conclusion, a formulaic and somewhat thin narrative is made all the more distancing by the cheesy spells, frantic pacing and repetitious attention to style over substance that hold the final product back, but not so far that memorably energetic animations and performances, colorful writing and slickly paced direction don't carry "The Croods" as a fun, if flawed family affair about the original family affair.
2.5/5 - Fair