Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

March 26, 2013

CALLERI: 'The Croods' ambles along to a bright new world, Stone Age style

Niagara Gazette — Well, now we know. The mother-in-law joke, that corny vestige of tired comedians everywhere, was first told in prehistoric times. At least that’s the impression we get from “The Croods,” the new animated feature from DreamWorks.

Mothers-in-law don’t get a fair shake in the movie, but fortunately the cartoon fable doesn’t lose its focus because of this. “The Croods” has enough charms to soothe a savage mastodon.

Yes, the in-law jokes get annoying, but the film overcomes the negativity they engender. Besides, Cloris Leachman provides the voice for the crabby cavewoman. If you’re going to have a curmudgeonly female codger, a grandmother who wears being nasty like a badge of honor, than I guess Leachman’s the gal for you. Her snarling attitude is actually rather funny at times.

The Croods are a Stone Age family that lives in mortal fear of everything. The world beyond their cave is fraught with dangers, real and imagined. Strange creatures, horrific sounds, and odd smells all contribute to their sense of impending doom. The Croods are in a battle to survive, although Granny has certainly defied the odds. Perhaps even the beasts are afraid of her. The family also includes Grug the father (voiced by Nicolas Cage), Ugga the mother (Catherine Keener) and Eep the daughter (Emma Stone). There’s also a young son, Thunk, and the wild child, Sandy.

Where television’s more famous Stone Age Flintstones lived a rather luxurious existence, the Croods are polar opposites. This doesn’t sit well with daughter Eep, who believes there has to be a better part of the world. Those lights in the sky mean something. The thrust of “The Croods” is really rather simple. Grug, who lives by the credo “fear is good, change is bad,” wants to protect his family. He insists that to travel too far means certain doom. There are even drawings showing the tragic fate of neighbors who strayed too far from their caves. As if that weren’t harsh warning enough, the continents are shifting and an earthquake will soon deliver a homeless existence. Through all of this, Grug, like fathers everywhere, at any time, in any era, has to contend with the rebellious spirit of his teenage daughter.

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