A talented voice cast, lively and ultra-colourful animation and some safe and broad themes make for a decent family adventure with the sequel The Croods: A New Age, hitting screens around seven years after the original.
The Croods: A New Age has had a bumpy road to screens. The follow-up to the 2013 CG-animated film was announced that very year and development unfolded over the next few years until it was scrapped in 2016, when Universal Pictures acquired DreamWorks Animation. The film was greenlit again in 2017, although this time with Joel Crawford as director, replacing the first film’s helmers Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders. So, worth the wait? If you were a fan of the first film: mostly.
Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman return to voice the titular cavemen family, who are still on the search for a new home and continue to face the treacherous wild as a pack. Dad Grug continues to hold their togetherness as an all-important element for their survival, although his ‘stronger together’ discipline appears to be threatened with the blossoming romance between his daughter Eep and Guy, who are eyeing a move towards independence. Their problems appear to be solved when they discover a bountiful oasis, although they soon discover that this haven is actually the home of the Bettermans (yeah), a father (Peter Dinklage), mother (Leslie Mann) and daughter (Kelly Marie Tran) of a more evolved clan that are all warmth and smiles… at first.
As far as sequels go, The Croods 2 is a solid effort. The film continues on from the first quite smoothly, which is great to see considering the production woes and creative change-ups behind the scenes. The animation is gorgeous, although with perhaps slightly less creative spark from that seen in the first film – and the fact that the Ice Age comparisons are just begging to be made. There’s also a lean towards psychedelic imagery here, which may be a little confusing for little ones but does make for a few wildly energetic sequences. And it all moves along at a fast pace that, thankfully, doesn’t threaten to pummel the plot.
As with the first film, it’s all about family. Introducing the decidedly different Bettermans provides the film with plenty of opportunity to tackle odd-couple humour and life lessons for our Croods. The jokes fly out in rapid-fire succession – wit coming from both the dialogue and the smorgasbord of visual gags. It’s light and easy stuff, and broad enough to provide chuckles for all ages.
Regarding those aforementioned life lessons, they’re of the usual ‘parents mean well’ and ‘kids have to grow up’ variety that we’ve seen play out countless times in other animated films. The themes are tried and tested and the screenplay doesn’t try to provide them with fresh spins, but they’re nevertheless confidently handled. Again, broad enough to ensure as wide an audience can be comfortable. That being said, a little more emphasis on the heart would have been nice. It falls short of the surprising emotion carried with the first film.
The Croods: A New Age is assured studio entertainment, a safe product for the masses crafted with a risk-free blueprint. And hey, there’s a warmth to that; a pleasant hour-and-a-half diversion in a year when any enjoyable distraction is of high value.
‘The Croods: A New Age’ hit US cinemas on November 25th and opens in Australian cinemas on December 26th.