At least that’s what DreamWorks’ latest animation in 3D would like you to believe. Only director duo Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders go about this conjecture with such ardent faith and endearing whimsy, you don’t really mull over authenticity.
Just like Merida defies Elinor in Brave and Hiccups sneaks behind Stoick’s back in How To Train Your Dragon, Stone Age teen Eep (Emma Stone) is all for disobeying her super cautious father, Grug (Nicholas Cage) and his long list of rules. It’s the same old dispute — a curious teenager and his/her fascination for the new and unknown while the parent’s refusal to let go or embrace change.
Though The Crodds doesn’t have the visual delicacy or detailing of the afore-mentioned films, it does sufficiently well in shifting from grim landscapes to vibrant colours while putting up a constant spectacle of imaginative fauna and creative creature mash-ups, akin to a low-budget Avatar.
Don’t get me wrong, The Croods isn’t substandard animation. On the contrary, some of its wizardry, justifying the effort to wear those burdensome 3D glasses, is spellbinding and immersive – whether its the embers blowing in graceful slow motion or minute specks of dust imbuing the atmosphere after a seismic outburst or dandelions dispersing their seeds. Except that the makers could have played a lot more adventurously with the imagery of its figmental history.
But The Croods would rather concentrate on the wonderment of discovery. As the overprotective head of his feisty, spunky family –Ugga (Catherine Keener), the kind, understanding wife, Gran (Cloris Leachman), his quirky mother-in-law whom he quite openly waits to die, Thunk (Clark Duke), the dim-witted, chubby son, Sandy (Randy Thom), the hyper, hungry baby and Eep, the rebellious teen daughter — Grug likes to believe he’s in charge with his bizarre tricks, brutal bedtime stories, which oppose anything that’s not routine and a staunch motto – Never Not Be Afraid.
Despite the stiffness of his conduct, there is no scarcity of exuberance in The Croods. Both he and his spirited kin approach hunting of a giant egg for breakfast like a game of American football. The snappy pace of their actions, bolstered by an impressively agile camerawork, kicks in the velocity to produce a breathtaking sequence.
Considering theirs is the only family that’s survived the ordeal of transition and climatic/natural threats, as revealed in a droll foreword by Eep, Grug is made out to be way more unreasonable than he really is. Perhaps it’s got something to do with his humourless disposition –a personality trait that is significantly challenged after Eep introduces him and the rest to Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a slightly more evolved specimen of the human race who introduces them to alien concepts like fire, shoes, pets and a attainable paradise named ‘Tomorrow’ even as they bump into one intriguing creature (resembling giant plush toys) after another.
Grug’s reputation as a leader takes a beating after his entire family warms up to Guy’s know-it-all ways and The Croods, at this point, begins to resemble another DreamWorks creation, Over The Hedge. While it’s not hard to predict what this will lead to, Croods does have a few surprises in store.
Can’t say the character model is too unique what with Grug resembling Shrek’s human form and everyone else bearing a similar countenance tweaked in size with different hairstyles. The star voices of Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and director Sanders as Guy’s pet Sloth Belt (belting a hilarious da da daaaaaa on cue), however, more than ensure this talkative family flick generates a steady downpour of excitement.
While Cage allows his droopy tone lend Grug a sense of fumbling disciplinarian and underdog daddy, Reynolds’ Guy shows off his yowling range. But it’s the beautiful Emma Stone who steals the show with her flawlessly expressed disgust, angst, infatuation and tenderness.
Ah yes, tenderness. What’s the point of a kiddie animation if it cannot send warm fuzzies across the screen? And so whether it’s a lonely Grug doodling his entire family on the cave walls or the objects of his primitive painting seeking him out by blowing a conch shell, the message is lovingly put across – family is precious and sticks together through caves and calamities.
Zany, zippy, meaningful and sweet, there is never a single dull moment in The Croods.
This review was first published on rediff.com.