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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

The Croods (review)

Croods red light

I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): the trailer looked idiotic

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)


I’m desperately trying to figure out the backstory of the Croods.

Not the movie The Croods, because it’s patently obvious that lush, gorgeous animation plus simplistic story sledgehammered home with embarrassingly on-the-nose dialogue that elucidates impossible-to-refute themes — “be yourself”; “family is important” — that will also dub equally easily into Mandarin and Russian and Spanish equals global box office jackpot. Or that at least that was the totality of the thought process behind the flick.

And so thereby we solve a small mystery, which had been: What happens when you pair up the writer and director of the dire Space Chimps — that would be Kirk De Micco — with Chris Sanders, the writer and director of the glorious How to Train Your Dragon and Lilo & Stitch? The answer: It all gets dumbed down to the Space Chimps level.

But it’s the larger mystery of the Croods — the actual family of characters and the world they inhabit — that has me stumped. Who are they? How did they get where they are? It’s an enormous conundrum, and pondering it was pretty much the only thing that kept me awake while enduring the film.

See, cuz here we have a small group of cavefolk all on their lonesome, part of no larger social group or kin network, which is completely contrary to everything we know about how humans live today and have lived in the past, right back to when we were mere protohumans. So whether the Croods — dad Grug (the voice of Nicolas Cage: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Drive Angry), mom Ugga (the voice of Catherine Keener: The Oranges, Trust) and her mom (the voice of Cloris Leachman: Gambit, The Women), daughter Eep (the voice of Emma Stone: Gangster Squad, Movie 43), and son Thunk (the voice of Clark Duke: Hot Tub Time Machine, Kick-Ass) — are supposed to be Cro-Magnons or Neanderthals or whatever, we would expect them to be living in a tribe with other families. And they aren’t.

So I surmise that this is not an accurate depiction of prehistoric human lifestyles.

Where the Croods live is equally puzzling. It almost looks like Death Valley, the sere, rocky landscape their harsh cave-home is on the edge of. When a massive earthquake forces them to leave this land, they discover, literally right over one ledge and utterly untouched by the quake, a completely different environment riotous with pastel-colored vegetation and teeming with strange animals. If the awesome yet oddly narrow destructive power of that earthquake weren’t enough, the environment here — through which the Croods must travel to find a new home — seals it: The Croods is as geologically dubious as it is sociologically suspect.

Perhaps the Croods came through the same wormhole that tripped up De Micco’s space chimps. The planet they live on does more resemble Pandora than Earth, what with all the psychedelic plantlife and oddly appendaged critters. Or it could be Stitch’s homeworld — some of the animals look more like him than anything planet Earth has ever seen. Were the Croods abducted by aliens and deposited on a distant planet in some sort of demented experiment?

Unless… oh my gawd, I think I’ve got it. Was The Croods secretly produced by the Institute for Creation Research? Though it’s not mentioned in the film that I can recall, all the marketing makes it clear that the Croods are supposed to be “the world’s first family” — and who but Western creationists would believe that the world’s first family was white? Or that humans coexisted with dinosaur-esque creatures and were around when the original supercontinent Pangea started breaking up (as is hinted is supposed to be the reason for the earthquake)? Or that humanity was created intact with 1950s values: change is to be feared; curiosity is to be quashed; father knows best; mothers-in-laws are awful (and the subset: only women who are “ugly” or annoying have body hair); women love shoes? Because these are the tenets that the Croods live by. And there’s another one, too: a dad must protect his daughter’s “virtue.” This comes in when the Croods meet Guy (the voice of Ryan Reynolds: Ted, Safe House), who has “ideas” and uses newfangled things like “fire,” and so naturally Eep — who wants so much more than this provincial life — finds him attractive, which somehow threatens Grug as a father. But wait! If the Croods are the first family, where the heck did Guy come from?

The Croods! For everyone who loved The Flintstones, but didn’t find it depressingly conventional and conservative enough.


The Croods (2013)
US/Can release: Mar 22 2013
UK/Ire release: Mar 22 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated PH (contains prehistoric humor)
MPAA: rated PG for some scary action
BBFC: rated U (contains mild threat)

viewed in 3D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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