Review: The Croods
We’ve been waiting impatiently to see the Croods ever since we saw the first trailer – and yesterday, thanks to Odeon, we got the chance. The whole family loves Dreamworks animations – Over The Hedge is possibly the most-watched DVD on the shelf, closely followed by the Shreks. Not that it matters to the children who MADE the film – it just needs to be good. And to make them laugh. Croods promised both, so it was with huge anticipation and high expectations that we took our seats yesterday.
It’s a simple enough storyline – Eep (Emma Stone) is your archetypal teen, resenting the parents rules and groaning at every opportunity. Mostly it’s a head-on battle with her father Grug (Nicolas Cage) – who we see quite quickly has saved his family against all the odds in a violent landscape purely by sticking to the rules. Grug is an irritating character at first – you can see he’s an over-protective caveman (literally!), but you can’t help feeling sympathetic too. To the children in the audience he’s just another strict grown up, but to the parents it’s very clear he is fighting a constant state of panic to keep his family safe. For me, maintaining that agonising unspoken line of uncomfortable tension is one of the things I love most about this clever film.
Naturally, Eep breaks The Rules, sneaks out, meets a boy (Guy), learns about the End Of The World (“dan-dan-daaaaah”), and the Croods are forced into learning a whole new set of Rules.
The Croods is funny. Laugh Out Loud funny. Properly, spontaneously snort-bursting funny.
It might be telling the tale of prehistoric man, but there are some fabulous references to modern life – everyone has no doubt seen the ‘shooooes’ clip, but the taking of the family snapshot is a classic that made the whole cinema laugh twice.
Belt (Guy’s clip-on pet) is also a stroke of genius – he says little, but you eagerly anticipate every ‘word’ he utters, and he possibly got the biggest laughs of the afternoon.
The ‘End of the World’ disaster that crushes rips the Croods’ cave reveals an extravagant, exuberant world they never knew existed – and it is a heady voyage of discovery tat we join them on. I’m not a fan of 3D in general, but this film was simply stunning to sit inside. Instead of 3D trickery designed to surprise you, the viewer instead simply slides inside the film and gets washed away in the depth and richness of this new world. The trickery is subtle, and more beautiful for being so; my 6yr old daughter physically reached her hand out twice to catch the dandelion seed heads and play with the sparks from the fire.
But it’s not just surface prettiness – the details are never ending. The animals we encounter are genius creations, being comfortable creatures we recognise whilst at the same time being out of place and very very wrong. Whales on land, piranha bird flocks, mammoths that seem to have a leopard coat, and never forgetting Douglas the crocopup.
But underneath this sumptuous visual extravaganza there’s a solid and tightly-crafted storyline that progresses with an exciting pace that maintains even a flighty 6yr old’s interest. The cast of lead characters is developed with genuine depth and surprising compassion – Grug may be annoyingly over-protective, but we understand why, and we sympathise. Eep may be a stroppy teen, but we understand her frustration and the need to explore the big wide world. Stone Age family – maybe, but every family in the cinema recognises them.
There is palpable joy in this film – when sunlight is caught on fingertips, I felt honestly moved. The story doesn’t rush along – we have time to explore and absorb as there’s so much to see – but this is balanced with adrenaline-fueled scenes like the hunt which provide a nice contrast in the tempo of the film. Even during the slow-moving beautiful scenes there is a tense undercurrent, and levels of concern (parents of very young viewers probably need to know there is the suggestion of the death of a character, and themes of instability and fear, that the world is Not A Safe Place) rise a fall with neat manipulation.
Did we laugh? Oh yes – I cannot remember the last time I watched a film in which the entire cinema laughed as loud as I did.
Did we care about the characters? Yes – enough for the entire cinema to be suddenly utterly still at the point of catastrophe, heart in mouths as we waited for it to somehow be made okay again.
Did we love it? Oh Yes. Very Much Indeed.