Mark Metcalf
“The Croods”

Fun, but without straying from its prototype

Dreamworks' newest flick is a clever, prehistoric family romp in a classic tradition, but it's too unimaginative to be more than a moneymaker.

By - Mar 22nd, 2013 04:00 am
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THE CROODS

Evolution becomes animated in the new film The Croods. Photos courtesy Dreamworks Animation.

Almost everything about The Croods is familiar. To me. But I have been through 18 years of seeing mostly movies my son wanted to see, and he is a fan of both animation and of anything that has to do with animals or the prehistoric world.

Luckily, the fifteen or so years in which he’s been interested in going into dark rooms with a lot of strangers and having music and other sounds played really loud while he watches various very vivid and often violent images displayed in front of him – in other words, going to the movies – luckily those have been the years where Pixar and Toy Story changed the very meaning and value of animation. Some of these computer-animated films have been the best of the last fifteen years: Toy Story, Wall-E, The Incredibles, Up and Shrek. Some of the ones that aren’t great – Madagascar, Ice Age, Rango – are still a fun way to spend an afternoon no matter how young you are. The Croods is not one of the great ones, but it is very, very good.

According to my son, who is somewhat of an authority, they got a lot of the evolutionary history correct. The creatures are fantastical, yet they still represent a compressed notion of how some animals evolved over a long period of time. Witness the whale that roams the land on four elephantine feet.  Whales did evolve from a land mammal and maybe for one seemingly preposterous evolutionary moment they did lumber about the canyons and deserts with a tail and a dorsal fin. They probably did not look quite so Dr. Seuss-like.

the-croodsThe major premise, the eventual demise of Neanderthals and the survival and continued evolution of Cro-Magnons on toward homo sapiens, is all accepted as truth in circles where they discuss such things. But the science is not what makes the movie work. I think even fully vocal, latent or repressed creationists will find the family dynamics of the Crood brood funny and true. They function much like any patriarchal American family, following in the traditions of The Honeymooners and The Flintstones. It is all comedy territory that has been and will continue to be picked over by comedians and market researchers everywhere.

I guess if I sound annoyed (which I hope I do), what irks me most about The Croods is that it is completely a product of the marketplace. It is designed to appeal to children, plus a little tongue-in-cheek humor something for the parents that take them to see it to smile about.

There is nothing particularly new or innovative about The Croods. It doesn’t upend an idea or attempt to shatter a belief. It’s more benign than a Big Mac but not by much. It’s not particularly nourishing and isn’t intended to be. It’s funny but it won’t surprise you. It is really meant just to make money. I suspect it will.

The Croods opens almost everywhere Friday, March 22. 

Want more from Mark? Check out TCD’s Backstage with Mark Metcalf interview podcast series, published most Mondays.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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