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Movie review: “The Croods” a fantastic animated journey

Rated PG. 91 minutes. At area theaters

The following observation comes with apologies to the Geico Caveman:

Full of code-enabled visual artistry and infused with story-telling wisdom, “The Croods” is epochs ahead of its fear-driven cave-dad Grug.

And yet, the family that leaves their cave out of necessity and embarks on a journey in DreamWorks’ latest animated feature turns out to be a touching poster clan for the joys and pangs, risks and rewards of evolving.

Co-directors and co-writers Kirk DeMicco and Arvada native Chris Sanders have avoided the obvious while delivering the delightful.

The terrain Grug (Nicolas Cage) and family traverse is utterly new and comes with fresh dangers.

Yet, if there is a villain, its name is “Fear.”

The hero? Curiosity.

Emma Stone gives voice to the movie’s central protagonist, Eap, the teenager who’s starting to bristle at her father’s rules.

Eap has a hankering to go toward the light. And that doesn’t mean demise but quite likely its opposite.

When she meets a guy named Guy, she begins to see the possibilities. The first most telling one being that there is another (albeit more advanced) human walking around.

Voiced by Ryan Reynolds, Guy is inventive — and alone. He has a pet sloth named Belt and a looming sense that the world is coming to an end. He, too, is headed toward the light.

Guy becomes a guide to the possible.

Too bad that Grug’s favorite words are, “No, no, no and no.” His go-to mantra: “Fear is good. Change is bad.”

Truth is Grug’s extreme caution and out-sized strength have served his family well. They are the only cave family still standing.

The movie kicks off with a furious and coordinated chase for breakfast, with Grug, wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman) and kids Eap, Thunk and the ferocious toddler Sandy in a mad, wild dash for the day’s sustenance. The family that preys together, well, survives.

Of course they are not alone in this amazing race. Nor are they solely predators.

Populated with strange and imaginative beasts, “The Croods” rebuffs typical ideas about the animals that roamed eons ago. At least one resembles a Maurice Sendak creature. Where the wild things are indeed.

A flock of seemingly demure pink birds takes wing to become a mesmerizing swarm, swooping and wheeling in spellbinding unison. In this world, being spellbound is not always a good thing.

“The Croods” comes with some “Avatar” moments of 3-D oohs and awe. Yet the movie never feels derivative. It captures the wonder (and more gently, the anxiety) of discovery time and time again. And the filmmakers have a hoot playing with the Croods’ encounters with, as well as their misunderstandings of, all things new.

The writing is swift, clever. Yet, DeMicco and Sanders never overstate their jokes. The story unfolds in a nearly wink-free realm. OK, there is a running gag about mothers-in-law. The routine is familiar up to a point. When it tips over, what a pleasure.

Eap’s narration bookends the action. But this hero’s journey doesn’t belong to one character. This is the saga of advancing as humans.

When the ground shakes and the lava flows in new fissures and canyons, curiosity and problem solving trump fear; heart matters more than brawn. And even art and play have their role in survival.

Lisa Kennedy


Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. My kids really want to see this. Glad it’s a winner.

  2. We’re planning to go see this over break. It sounds great!

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