2 Stars – Entertaining
Imagining a teenager who is coming of age in a cave-dwelling family during the stone age is a creative leap. Using modern understandings of family dynamics with a protective father whose daughter wants to live beyond his fears, a mother who understands both, and a world that is in the midst of change, Kirk De Micco and Chris Sander‘s The Croods is an animated film that both celebrates and stereotypes family life.
Setting the stage for our adventure we are told the story in cave picture style that the Croods are the remaining family of what was once a small collection of families. Humorously portraying the others’ demise by the dangers of their primitive world, it is clear that Grug (voice by Nicolas Cage) is worried. Deciding that life outside the cave is too dangerous, the family only ventures out from its darkened safety to secure food.
But one night after being securely placed behind the rock door of their cave, Eep (voice by Emma Stone) notices a light in the darkness. Having never seen such a harnessing of the sun, Eep risks her life to find its source. It is then that she meets Guy (voice by Ryan Reynolds). Although not her match in strength, Guy is the next stage of human evolution as he uses his brain and creative ideas not only to survive the dangers but also to live outside a cave. But Guy also prophesies that their land is collapsing and they must flee to a safer place. It is this adventure in both love and new life that powers the story.
The ensemble of human, animal and plant characters gives the story depth and humor. The Crood family includes Eep‘s mother Ugga (voice by Catherine Keener), her brother Thunk (voice by Clark Duke), the baby and the maligned mother-in-law Gran (voice by Cloris Leachman). The animals include a prehistoric tiger and bird whose anger is misunderstood and whose eggs are a primary source of food, as well as a nocturnal flock of birds capable of consuming any animal that remains unprotected after sunset. The plants include a prehistoric coral that punctures feet without shoes and flesh-eating flowers that can only be deceived to survive.
We won’t spoil the adventure and the creative interactions of this transitional moment in both a teenager’s coming of age and humanity’s evolutionary change, but the messages are clear: we must risk life if we are to live, the mind and muscle are both needed for survival, and love is most often misunderstood and miscommunicated. These seem like the place to start a good story rather than conclude one.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. The transition from one stage of evolution to another is often depicted as gradual, however the science would suggest that change happens more often in a moment in time. How has your own growth as a person been impacted by specific moments of change in your life?
2. The attraction that Eep has for Guy is based in part on her desire to get out from under her father’s control. How would you counsel Eep to make the transition from her own family to her own new relationship? How did you make that transition?
3. The sense that one area of the world is collapsing while there is another area that is becoming a paradise is part of the message of this tale. In what ways do you believe our world is changing and how will we find our own “tomorrow”?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.