When I saw the first trailer for The Croods, I was hopeful. A curious young woman wanting to break free from her stifling family is not exactly the freshest story. Still, for her curiosity not to set her apart from merely “proper women”, but from her entire (small) society is slightly newer ground. Then I saw the second trailer, and I got nervous. She’s still pulling away from her family, but now there’s a boy involved, and it looks like he’s the real hero. And then I saw the movie itself, and, well, better luck next time.
I will give The Croods credit: Eep (Emma Stone) is far from the bog-standard waifish princess character from most kids’ movies. Like the rest of her cave-dwelling family — father Grug (Nicholas Cage), mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), brother Thunk (Clark Duke), sister Sandy (evidently rendered from scratch by Randy Thom), and an unnamed grandmother (Cloris Leachman) — she’s big and broad and strong, with hair that recalls Lotte from Being John Malkovich. They all live in a cave in the middle of a pre-apocalyptic wasteland, where Grug instructs them nightly in his twin mottos: “new is always bad” and “never not be afraid”.
But one night Eep sees a light outside, and she squeezes past the giant rock in the doorway to chase it. There she finds a guy named, well, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), and fire is the least of his bright ideas. He and his pet sloth, Belt (Chris Sanders), choose to follow the light rather than merely cursing the darkness. Guy also knows — somehow — that it’s almost time for The End of the World (dah dah daaaaah!), and that the only hope for survival is to travel towards a particular far-off mountain. Grug is, of course, having none of this until the Croods’ cave is crushed and they’re forced out into the wider world.
So really this isn’t so much about a young woman struggling for her freedom, but about a young woman struggling for the freedom to choose a different man than her daddy. And the only arc we see is actually Grug’s, as he must learn to give up total control or lose his family entirely to the new age led by Guy. The movie even squanders what goodwill it gains by not making Eep “pretty”, since she’s still the prettiest of anyone in her family, to the extent that Guy doesn’t even recognize her as a cave-dweller while describing the rest of them as “little more than animals”.
So yeah, no real real revolution in storytelling here. At least the action sequences are excitingly rendered, and the fantastic scenery is nice to look at. Incidentally, don’t bother with the 3-D version, since it’s largely a waste and it saps a gorgeous palette of its most vibrant colors. But unless you’ve got a little one just dying to see it, give The Croods a miss.
Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.