'The Croods' - the title says it all, doesn't it? They're a prehistoric family of cavemen ...women? ...cave-people? In fact, they're the last family of cave-people, managing to survive this long courtesy of the family motto: "Never not be afraid." This "healthy" dose of everyday fear has kept the family of six bored and emotionally stunted - but alive - for the most part... until now. Eldest child Eep (Emma Stone) is choc-full of curiosity and resents the darkness patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage) both literally and figuratively keeps the family in. One night, Eep breaks the cardinal rule and leaves the family cave when she follows a mysterious light. The light turns out to be fire created by Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who warns Eep that the end of the world is coming, when the earth will split apart and lava will flow freely. This revelation forces the Croods to seek safer territory with their reluctant new friend/hostage Guy and his pet Belt, a sloth with a flair for the dramatic (and also keeps Guy's pants up). Along this roadtrip fraught with danger and laughs, Guy introduces the Croods to cooked food, traps, pets, pants, the existence of brains and, of course, the wonderful world of shoes.
It's a nice twist on the fish out of water tale, only this time it's fish - plural, and the bowl only has seven people in it total. The Croods are the Griswolds, if the Griswolds lived a couple millennia earlier and were actually likable people who picked up a knowledgeable hitchhiker along the way... but you get the idea.
Sure, the themes are a little superficial, but the family dynamic is strong and it works. The vocal talent is fantastic and the visual artistry in many of the vast scenes of the film are pretty spectacular - a treetop view of the night sky comes to mind. Co-writer and co-director Chris Sanders is one of the men behind the brilliant 'How To Train Your Dragon'. While Sanders has transferred over some of that charm, heart and comedy, he and Kirk De Micco aren't quite the same winning combination that delivered 'Dragon' so beautifully.
'The Croods' is filled with a lovely sense of wonder while also displaying teenage independence, empty nest syndrome and the significance of family. It's a film that falls just above the type of movies that litter our cinemas every school holiday period. The slapstick and whacky creatures will keeps the kids entertained, while the family and romantic elements will keep the parents wistful.