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The Croods-A New Age Movie Review: Chaotic Family Fun

I have a confession: I’ve never seen The Croods. I thought briefly about watching it, but based on my looming Thanksgiving week to-do list, I figured a quick Google search of the plot would suffice. It turns out I could have saved those few minutes. The Croods: A New Age gives you enough backstory to make sure you’re all caught up, even if you are new to the franchise.

The Crood family, father Grug (Nicolas Cage), mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), daughter Epp (Emma Stone), son Thunk (Clark Duke), baby daughter Sandy (Randy Thom), and Ugga’s mother Gran (Cloris Leachman) are on a journey to “Tomorrow,” a new place to call home. They’re accompanied by Guy (Ryan Reynolds), the evolved caveman they “adopted” in the last movie. Guy and Epp have a burgeoning romance, but overprotective father Grug wants to quash it if he can. I guess dads are gonna dad no matter what the era.

Danger surrounds them, but things are looking up when the Croods find a lush and colorful garden full of food. It turns out the garden is tended by Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) Betterman, along with their teenage daughter, Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). And guess what? The Bettermans knew Guy when he was younger, before he had to evacuate after his parents’ tragic deaths. The Bettermans think they have a “better way” to do things, and tensions grow quickly between the two families.

(from left) Ugga Crood (Catherine Keener), Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage), Guy (Ryan Reynolds), Eep Crood (Emma Stone) holding Dawn Betterman (Kelly Marie Tran), Hope Betterman (Leslie Mann) and Phil Betterman (Peter Dinklage) in DreamWorks Animation's The Croods: A New Age, directed by Joel Crawford.

You get what you expect when you watch The Croods: A New Age. The jokes land–even if most of them qualify as low hanging fruit. We get a family-friendly message of acceptance, plus a bonus lesson about sharing available resources, all with sufficient adventure, comedy, and conflict to drive the message home.

Credit where credit is due, A New Age has a ton of characters and they managed to give a decent story arc to everyone. Well, maybe not Sandy. Perhaps she’ll get her moment when they turn this into a trilogy? Still, after seeing many a movie where they all but ignore their secondary characters, it was no mean feat to give everyone their narrative purpose in just over an hour and a half. Director Joel Crawford packed this movie full of jokes, story, and color, creating something that was occasionally a little manic, but still enjoyable to watch.

Flashback music creates much of the fun in A New Age. Spandau Ballet’s “True” and The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You” provide the soundtrack for some very campy sequences. Haim created an all-new song, “Feel The Thunder,” which serves as the backdrop for an 80s hair metal band music video that pops up in the third act. I do not expect kids to get the references, but they will probably laugh along with their parents.

Sometimes animated features are thoughtful and clever and primed for awards season. Other times they simply set out to entertain. While The Croods: A New Age definitely falls into the latter category, it at least succeeds in that mission. Minus a few scary scenes that might be too intense for the very young, it is a chaotic and fun family film that will definitely entertain.

You can catch The Croods: A New Age in theaters, where available, on Thanksgiving day.

About The Croods: A New Age

Rating:PG (Peril|Action|Rude Humor)
Runtime: 1h 35m

The Croods have survived their fair share of dangers and disasters, from fanged prehistoric beasts to surviving the end of the world, but now they will face their biggest challenge of all: another family

The Croods need a new place to live. So, the first prehistoric family sets off into the world in search of a safer place to call home. When they discover an idyllic walled-in paradise that meets all their needs, they think their problems are solved … except for one thing. Another family already lives there: the Bettermans.

The Bettermans (emphasis on the “better”)—with their elaborate tree house, amazing inventions and irrigated acres of fresh produce—are a couple of steps above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. When they take the Croods in as the world’s first houseguests, it isn’t long before tensions escalate between the cave family and the modern family.

Just when all seems lost, a new threat will propel both families on an epic adventure outside the safety of the wall, one that will force them to embrace their differences, draw strength from each other and forge a future together.

As The Bunny Hops®