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The Croods (2013)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/1/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/14/2013

Since the release of Toy Story in 1995, we've witnessed the exponential growth of computer generated animated films. More and more of these movies are released every year, to the point that they've become ubiquitous. These films have tackled an array of subjects and have brought us many memorable characters. At this point, I can't help but wonder if the folks at Pixar, Dreamworks, Disney, Sony, and Blue Sky don't simply sit around with a list of potential ideas for a movie and simply point at one. This would explain why someone at Dreamworks felt that cavemen were a good idea for a movie. Can The Croods take a questionable premise and turn it into a good movie?

The Croods is set in the Stone Age and introduces us to a tight-knit family. Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) is the patriarch of the clan. He does everything that he can to keep the family out of danger, which means making sure that they spend as much time as possible in the safety of their cave. He lives with his wife, Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), their three children, Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), and Sandy (voiced by Randy Thom), as well as Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman), Ugga's mother. Eep hates her father's over-protective rules and longs to explore the world outside of the cave. One night, she sees a mysterious light outside and decides to explore it. She meets Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), an explorer who can create fire. He warns Eep that the world is about to end, and that she should join him. Eep must now try and convince her father that they must leave the cave if they want to survive.

Save for the worst entries into the genre, most animated films attempt to teach some sort of lesson while entertaining us. Some beat us over the head with it (I get it, Wall-E, save the planet!), while others are more subtle. But, I don't recall one mixing an overt story with a more subtle lesson as The Croods does. Now, keep in mind, calling this movie "subtle" is a bit of an overstatement, but the deeper ideas are mixed in rather nicely. The whole film focuses on change. The world which The Croods knows is ending and they have to find a new place to live if they want to survive. Grug doesn't like change and he's very resistant to anything new -- almost to the point that he puts the family in danger. He must accept these changes if he wants to live. At the same time, Eep is starting to trust Guy more than she trusts her own father. This is a very extreme example of a parent letting go and allowing their child to explore the world on their own. While this part of the film isn't exactly spelled out in code, it may go over the heads of younger viewers, but parents in the audience will find this touching and it certainly adds another layer to the story.

Serious stuff aside, The Croods is pretty entertaining as well. The inherent problem with a caveman movie is that the color palette can skew too much towards Earthtones. In the beginning, the animators get around this by filling the movie with animals with feature unique colorings. In the second half of the film, this color issues is solved by...well, I don't want to give anything away. Speaking of the animals, a lot of imagination went into creating them, as most of them as hybrids of animals which exist in our world. As one would expect, there are plenty of jokes modern ideas to this pre-historic world (but not in a The Flintstones way), and there are some decidedly funny moments here. Thunk, who isn't very bright, certainly offers comedic relief and Clark Duke does a great job with the voice acting. The Croods also upholds one of the great traditions of animation by having a funny sidekick who steals the show. Here, it is Belt (voiced by Director Chris Sanders, who also provided the voice for Stitch in Lilo & Stitch), a sloth who Guy wears around his waist. Unlike most sassy animals in animated films, Belt can't talk, but his gestures and his musical vocalizations, including his trademark "Dun-Dun-DUN", make him the funniest part of the film.

Not unlike Pixar, I've found Dreamworks animated films to be hit or miss, so I never know what to expect. They often seem to skew from too commercial and silly (Shark Tale, Over the Hedge) to too smart for their own good (How to Train Your Dragon). The Croods falls somewhere in the middle. The basic story is simple (and riddled with plot holes -- Where did Guy come from? Where are his people?), but it's never silly or insulting. The animations looks great and the aforementioned colors work well. The voice acting is good, but I'm still not sure if I like Nicolas Cage's voice coming out of a caveman. In the end, The Croods is harmless fun which offers a warm message to kids and adults.

The Croods made me want a Belt of my own on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look fantastic, most notably greens, reds, and blues, and even the "browner" scenes look fine. The image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is excellent, even in this 2D version and the level of detail really shows off the work which went into the animation. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are some nicely done stereo effects here which illustrate sounds coming from the left or right of the screen. The surround sound effects are nearly constant, as we either hear characters in the distance, or the rumbling of the earthquakes. Speaking of which the destruction sequences, as well as the action scenes, deliver palpable subwoofer effects.

The Croods Blu-ray Disc offers just a few extras. "The Croodaceous Creatures of The Croods" is an interactive feature which allows the viewer to choose from a menu of 9 animals from the film. The segment offers clips from the movie and narration which explains how the animals work. "Belt's Cave Journal" (6 minutes) is an animated short which examines some further adventures of Guy and Belt. "Crood's Cuts" is a collection of four DELETED SCENES which runs about 8 minutes, including introductions by Directors Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco. Three of these are presented in animated storyboard form. "Be an Artist!" (35 minutes) has animator Sean Sexton teaching us how to draw three of the creatures from the film, including Belt. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.