SCORE: 3 stars (out of 4)
When I was in high school my friends and I used to play a game where we’d test how badly we wanted to get with various girls by formulating hypotheticals. Such as, would you still make out with Kendra from English class if she had poop smeared over her face? What about Amy from calculus, if you had to wear a tutu and let the creepy P.E. teacher watch?
The Croods reminded me of that game, thanks to its depiction of geek goddess Emma Stone. The test of your Stone-lust presented here is this: Would you still want her if she were an animated, marginally overweight and somewhat mannish Cro-Magnon?
Other, unrelated questions the film poses: Can Nicolas Cage still badly overact if his tool set is restricted to just his voice? (Yes). Didn’t The Flinstones and Geico commercials pretty much strip-mine the world of all potential caveman humor? (Apparently not). And does the latest from DreamWorks pass the Pixar benchmark, meaning it’s so good that adults without kids should make it a point to get out and see it? (Kinda, yeah).
I credit the movie for getting through to me and making me laugh, despite all the distractions I had to deal with during the screening. That would include the seat-kicking kids sitting behind me at the screening, as well as the insistence of my own 4-year-old daughter to lose two pairs of 3D glasses and attempt to treat her seat like an Olympic platform diving board.
Stone voices Eep, a sheltered cave-teen who bristles under her controlling pops, Grug (Cage), who isn’t big on taking chances or trying new things. Along comes Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who is as inventive and free-wheeling as Grug is set in his ways. Add to that the fact that in Eep’s eyes, Guy is a totally hot piece of caveman tail, and you can understand Grug’s resentment of the dude.
I credit the movie for basing its humor in a subversive real-world setting in caveman trappings, instead of going the stupid Ice Age route of irritating slapstick and Nick Jr.-style antics. Grug, though thoroughly overacted and broad, is well-written. It’s fun to watch him try to keep things together as he deals with a resentful daughter, a wife (Catherine Keener) who takes him for granted, a brow-beating battle axe of a mother-in-law (Cloris Leachman) and a couple other impossible-to-handle kids, all while trying to assert his manhood and protect them all – even smarmy Guy – from a coming apocalypse. The gags about Grug longing for the death of his mother-in-law, in particular, are Married with Children-level.
I don’t want to oversell The Croods, but it surpassed my loftiest expectations, had me giggling in between popcorn chomps and even managed to settle down the hell-spawned demon children behind me and my own 4-year-old every now and again. At the very least, it’s better than Pixar’s latest, head-scratchingly best animated film Oscar-winning effort, Brave. If you slapped the Pixar logo on top of this thing, intellectuals would be heaping praise on it rather than defending the movie as a guilty pleasure.
That said, is this a movie you need to avoid NCAA Tournament action for? No, sir. Unless you’ve got a gang of rugrats tugging at your pant legs to get them to take you to it, you’ll be fine if you wait for it to hit the cheap theaters or home video. If the 43,000 years that have passed between the time of The Croods and now haven’t dated the humor, a few more months won’t hurt.
And as for the answer to that Emma Stone-as-a-fugly-Cro-Magnon hypothetical, I’ll leave it to you to do your own research and decide. But if you ask me, the answer is a no brainer:
Featuring the voices of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke. Written and directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco. 91 minutes. Rated PG.