THE CROODS. Voiced by Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman. Directed by Kirk De Mico, Chris Sanders. 98 minutes. Rated PG (mild themes).
What an entertaining film!
Anyone with half a funnybone should find the film amusing – and, with a complete funnybone, hilarious.
In one sense, it is a variation on the Ice Ages stories. However, it stands on its own as a story of cavemen and cavewomen and the survival of a family called The Croods. After the introduction to the family and their rules for safety, hiding in a dark cave until they venture out for food, relying on and ruled by fear, there is a marvelously active sequence where they all try to find and take an egg for breakfast. It is extraordinarily fast-paced, engaging and funny. Once we are on our way, it keeps getting better.
The voiceover narrative comes from Eep (Emma Stone). She is a rebellious red-headed teenager who is curious (something the rules forbid) and willing to take risks (also forbidden). In fact, Grug, the archetypal caveman, relying on brawns but no brain, repeats his favourite word again and again, No! He is voiced by Nicolas Cage, full of bluster, one of Cage’s best performances. Mother is Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman revels in her role as Gran, Grug’s obstreperous mother-in-law. There is a largish dumb son, Thunk, and a baby with a ferocious mouth and teeth, Sandy.
With cave people, there is lots of cave behaviour, plenty of slapstick that would make the Three Stooges envious. Woe betide all those prehistoric animals and birds that get in the way! Come to think of it, woe betide the family when they get in the animals’ and birds’ way.
One night Eep sees a light and ventures out only to find an agreeable boy, Guy and his comically sweet pet, Belt. Guy has fire. Family crisis. Worse when Guy warns them that the end of the world as they know it is about to happen.
What follows is an entertaining journey to avoid all the cataclysms (and there are plenty), the family gradually accepting Guy’s ideas and leadership, leaving Grug frustrated and angry. But, no unexpected spoiling here, the family survives the crisis, Eep is in love, and Grug is not only heroic, he produces a few ideas!
The screenplay is very witty, amusing comparisons between the stone age and the present – and two wonderful jokes about stone age methods of taking pictures. And it has plenty of ideas about nature, survival – and the meaning of life.
To be seen again!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out March 28, 2013.