Ever wondered what Neanderthal man’s Earth really looked like? Well, according to The Croods, it was remarkably similar to that tropical tie-dye domain Jim Cameron built for Avatar. But with less space ships and stuff. Such incongruity is just one of the problems in Dreamworks’ dreary latest.
Emma Stone voices teen cave-girl Eep. Rebellious and free-spirited, Eep’s curiosity of their wider surrounds brings friction between her and over-protective patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage), who’d rather keep his offspring in a deep dark hole than out experiencing the myriad dangers of the big bad world. However, when those pesky tectonic plates start shifting, and the landscape dramatically altering, the Croods are forced to abandon their rocky refuge for a perilous life on the trail.
The theme of discovery and open-mindedness is too simplistically drawn in this film of extremes. Is Life a terrified existence in near-total darkness (literal and metaphorical), or a painful transition to a place of Day-Glo beauty and enlightenment? You decide, kids. A patronising lack of nuance is further exemplified by a cast of stock characters. Allied to Eep and Grug’s clichéd predictability, we have compassionate but long-suffering Mom, Ugga (Catherine Keener), and the cantankerous Gran (Cloris Leachman) to compound the tedium. Impressive visuals and a brisk pace fail to mask an inherent emptiness and poor script filled with lazy anachronisms.
The very young may find joy in a colourful palette and well-rendered setpieces, but there’s little here for the folks. And what is there is ill-judged. For example, a sour running-gag of Grug’s disappointment at Gran’s refusal to succumb to various attacks on the family is bewilderingly inappropriate. Loud, dull and daft, this piece could do with crawling back to the cinematic primordial soup. [Chris Fyvie]