Crood. Rhymes with Good.
Nicolas Cage is a caveman with a lowbrow attitude toward life and forward momentum, and in the animated comedy THE CROODS, Nicolas Cage is a caveman with a lowbrow attitude toward life and forward momentum.
He’s Grug, pater to a prehistoric family, who is faced with the decision to adapt or die. It’s the process of evolution writ small. Movie takes awhile to hook us with its uncute characters and obvious “message” telegraphs, but once it starts paying off, it bonks us over the head like a caveman scoring his mate.
Grug’s family is attuned to ritual for survival. Every day they forage, every night return to their cave for exciting adventure stories from Grug (which all end the same way: “…and then they DIE!”) and pile up on each other to sleep until the sun returns. The message is clear: “Never be Not Afraid!” (A clearer way of seeing that in print is “Always be afraid!”) Stay close to the cave, never try anything new, distrust strangers and new experiences. Which means, of course, they will shortly have to disavow all these precepts to stay alive. Adapt or die.
Grug’s rambunctious daughter Eep (Emma Stone) ventures far from the cold stone cave one night and discovers a teen dream who can command Fire. Ryan Reynolds voices Guy, from a more advanced tribe, who is chasing the trail of higher ground before the world ends. After Grug’s family suffers a cave-in, they too must follow Guy’s “modern” ways if they wish to survive, to the chagrin of Grug, who sees Guy as a usurper of his leadership and masculinity.
The creature design is excellent – creative and unique: a slinky owl-predator, elaphantine swans, marauding bird flocks, land-walking whales, a psychedelic dodo, Guy’s belt-sloth (providing some “dun dun daaaah” moments), and a big cute sabertooth cat-creature that puts the fluffiness of the unicorn in DESPICABLE ME to shame. The family character design follows this thoughtful creativity. Look at Grug’s stoop, like a gorilla; he sometimes even walks on his knuckles (his superstitions and traditionalism make him a fish out of water in this road tale); while Eep represents curious, changing, dynamic youth, and is more upright. Grandma (voiced by Cloris Leachman) is so close to the roots of the evolutionary tree, she has a tail. While Guy represents total modernism with his totally upright posture and – bellbottoms. And a haute couture belt-sloth.
In an effort to compete with Guy’s natural ingenuity, Grug has “ideas” to prove himself worthy of leading the clan, He also starts thinking up new words and relating them to known ones, “Hug. Rhymes with Grug!”
Catherine Keener voices Grug’s wife, and Clark Duke voices their dopey son.
In a trek through a land that resembles AVATAR‘s Pandora, we do not immediately see that the love story is not between the boy and girl but between the girl and her father.
Animation has reached such a stage that when the mountain explodes, it looks too real for its own good. The family must leap a precipice, and only Grug’s powerful arms can hurl them across. Now the movie ramps into poignancy as Son realizes, “You’re not coming, are you?…” And Grug’s touching answer, “When you make it, so will I.” An instinctive knowledge that his genes will go on (albeit a touch cognizant for a lowbrow like Grug).
Movie tugs at the heartstrings mightily as it ramps towards the inevitable sacrifice. With his family safe on the other side, Grug is alone. He finds a cave, and achieves his reconciliation with all things “new” as he draws a crude scene, an adventure tale where everyone, instead of dying, LIVES. Within his powerful arms.
By the time Grug says to his daughter, “Never be afraid!” I was weeping at how writers Chris Sanders, Kirk de Micco and John Cleese could pay off so poignantly what started out as just another dull redemption tale.
Crood. Rhymes with Good.