Monday, 6 October 2014

Dreamworks The Croods Review

‘The Croods’ follows a family of cavemen as they have to adapt their survival methods to a rapidly changing world while learning about the difference between being alive and living.

‘The Croods’ is basically Ice Age with cavemen, or ‘The Incredibles’ with cavemen, or ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ with cavemen, or any number of dysfunctional family road trip movies with additional cavemen . That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t have some personality of its own but even so it still feels like a story that has been done to death. A father who can’t understand his teenage daughter is almost as common a trope as a father who hates his mother in law. Luckily ‘The Croods’ has the big book of dysfunctional families and every possible cliché is brought out. I appreciate that genres have archetypal characters, so I wouldn’t be bringing it up at all if they felt a bit more natural. The script for ‘The Croods’ is pretty strong. I can’t shake the feeling however, that the basic elements and characters were devised in a boardroom and given to the creatives to flesh out.

That being said the characters are well characterised and well performed by the voice cast. I separate the performance by the voice cast because the actual human character animation was a little bit lacking for me. They’re well animated and they move as people should but they lack some of the subtle nuances of movement and expression that humans have, nuances that films such as ‘Frozen’ revel in recreating.

The fundamental issue with ‘The Croods’ is also its biggest strength; it is trying to be too many things. The film makes a big point near the start of saying that there are rules for staying alive, “Don’t leave the cave”, “Always be afraid” and makes the point of how vulnerable the family are. The issue is that these scenes are cut next to impossible action sequences where the Croods escape unscathed every time, making them appear strong and not vulnerable. As the film progresses those rules are replaced with the more positive “Always follow the sun” and “Never be afraid” despite the dangers to the family only increasing as the film goes on, this making the original rules more understandable. Both the action and character scenes are strong but a bit of a reshuffle in the script would have done wonders to creating a more cohesive experience.

As the film goes on, the Croods find themselves having to adapt to survive, shedding much of their more aggressive cavemen tendencies in the process. As they become more like modern man they become easier to relate to. The issue being that during these earlier scenes where they are harder to understand the film relies very heavily on slapstick comedy, to an irritating extent. That being said, although heavy handed, this is a good way to start the film as it distances you from the family and brings you closer to them as they experience everyday things for the first time, such as fire.

One issue is the end of the world strand of the film. The Croods are being chased by destruction as they make their way through the world. All we and the Croods know is that the end of the world is coming; no explanation is really given as to why. This isn’t a massive issue as the family is and should be, the narrative focus but we see the earth split open, meteors hit and all variety of other unconnected disasters happening without any apparent explainable reason.

‘The Croods’ is a fairly bland story executed very well. I think the family drama has a fair bit of heart and may well be handled better than in say, ‘The Incredibles’ or ‘Brave’. That being said the film can’t entirely escape its generic, somewhat predictable, disaster story which was handled better in Ice Age 3. Despite some flaws ‘The Croods’ is pretty good but with a little more imagination it could have been something amazing.

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