Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders, Randy Thom (voices)
Written by: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Directed by: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
MPAA Rating: PG for some scary action
Running Time: 98
Date: 03/22/2013
IMDB

The Croods (2013)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Caving Out

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Croods continues Dreamworks Animation's winning streak. Historically, Dreamworks animated movies employed a blockier, chunkier look that's not at smooth or as warm as other animated movies. Moreover, crude humor usually took precedence over strong narratives. Lately, things have changed. Even the sequel Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and spinoff Puss in Boots were far better than their obnoxious predecessors would ever have suggested. The Croods, like last fall's Rise of the Guardians, takes the blocky look and runs with it. Motion adds a special kind of beauty to it.

The story follows a family of prehistoric cave dwellers. The fearful diligence of the over-protective Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) has kept his family alive past the point where extinction should have occurred. The family includes wife Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), the indestructible mother-in-law Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman), slow-witted son Thunk (voiced by Clark Duke), and Sandy, the feral baby with ferocious teeth.

But the movie is really about the spunky, wild-haired daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone). She's too curious to stay safe in the cave for days on end. During an outing, she runs into Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds). Guy has learned to use rudimentary tools and to make fire. He even keeps his pants up with a slinky creature known as "Belt." Guy warns Eep and her family that trouble is coming and they had better make their way to high ground.

The movie has no real villains; the conflict is mainly between Grug and Guy, old and new, safe and adventurous, brawn and brains. Reality is not a factor here. The characters constantly run, jump and fall great distances with no concern for fatigue, gravity or wind resistance. No dinosaurs you've ever heard of are on display, either; filmmakers Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders have invented a whole slew of astounding new creatures, including a beautiful flock of birds with surprising eating habits.

Indeed, the movie's incredible, surprising design -- with all the vibrant colors, imaginative shapes and textures that make up this prehistoric world -- is the movie's real star. The stretching and squashing of the figures within this amazing universe makes for constant conflict and humor, free-flowing and forward-moving.

Best of all, despite the images of nose-picking in the movie's poster, the movie's jokes -- which are at least partially thanks to co-writer John Cleese -- keep crude, bodily-oriented, gross-out humor to a refreshing minimum.

DreamWorks has released a two-disc set with a DVD (and digital copy) on one side and a Blu-ray on the other. The extras appear only on the Blu-ray disc, and they are mostly brief kid-friendly featuettes. We get a few "lost" scenes as well as trailers for this and other DreamWorks features. Picture and sound quality are superb. If you're lucky enough to have a 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray player, a 3D version of the movie is also available.

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