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The Croods
4/5
dir-scr Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
prd Kristine Belson, Jane Hartwell
voices Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman, Clark Duke, Randy Thom, Chris Sanders
release US/UK 22.Mar.13
13/US DreamWorks 1h38
The Croods
One million BC: Guy and Eep

cage stone reynolds
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Croods A witty spin on the rebellious teen comedy, this prehistoric animated adventure is silly enough to keep us laughing, but it also has sharp characters who are written, voiced and drawn with engaging detail. The message may be familiar, but the film is still inspiring. And a lot of fun.

Caveman Grug (Cage) protects his family by instilling a sense of fear about the dangers outside the cave, especially after dark. But teen daughter Eep (Stone) is restless to explore new horizons. Her mum Ugga (Keener) has her hands full with the feral baby Sandy (Thom), while pre-teen brother Thunk (Duke) and Gran (Leachman) are peskily unpredictable. Then one night Eep sneaks out of the cave and meets Guy (Reynolds), a slightly more-evolved human who has mastered fire and has some radical ideas about survival.

All of these characters are strongly defined and played against type by the voice cast (well, except for perpetual sassy-granny Leachman). This allows the characters to emerge beyond the actors' personas, complete with insecurities and individual approaches to each situation, all while playfully riffing on the more animalistic behaviour of cave-dwellers. Cage is especially strong as the bullheaded father who is terrified of change, so he's understandably nervous about this fit young man who has turned the head of his independent-minded daughter.

Yes, there's the whiff of a sitcom here, although the setting freshens things up considerably. Characters and landscapes are lavishly animated with a terrific attention to detail, gleefully subverting the humans while creating animals - both predators and prey - that can only be described as lost links in the evolutionary chain. From gigantic kittens to tiny elephant-mice, by way of walking whales and a crocodile-puppy, the film is a treasure trove of plush marketing possibilities. And Guy's sloth sidekick Belt (voiced by director Sanders) has a Scrat-like ability to steal scenes without any real dialog.

In the end, the themes quietly resonate, thankfully without too much sentimentality. Essentially this is a film about the dangers of basing all of your decisions on fear, breaking a stale routine and finding a route into new possibilities. It's not a hugely complex message, but the nicely-rounded characters being it to life in ways that continually catch us off-guard. And we don't want this adventure to end. Yes, a franchise is born.

cert u themes, comedy violence 10.Mar.13

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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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