The latest animated feature from DreamWorks may, if the title is anything to go by, sound a little rough around the edges. However, The Croods (2013) – co-written and directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, and featuring the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds – is a witty take on the difficulties of letting go of yesterday and embracing the future. Eep (Stone) is frustrated by life with her family, the Croods, a prehistoric clan led by her father Grug (Cage). Desperate to break free from the constraints of a lifestyle she sees as prehistoric, Eep leaves her kin and ventures beyond her cave.
In the vast blue yonder, Eep meets the feisty and free-minded Guy (Reynolds), whose influence has far-reaching effects not just on herself but also on her beloved family as a whole. With an increasing number of animated features flooding an already saturated market (particularly during the festive season) each and every year, the major studios have had to do something genuinely special in order to make their franchises-in-the-making standout from the rest of the crowd, whilst also encouraging adults to sit through said film(s) with their children. Fortunately, The Croods feels far enough distanced from the likes of the Ice Age cycle to appeal as a brand new IP, with sequels a sure-thing following a strong showing at the box office.
Unless a studio wants to follow the retro road taken by recent hit Wreck-It Ralph (2012), another option, in order to lend their films ‘adult’ appeal, is to give them a thought-provoking edge. De Micco and Sanders’ prehistoric family adventure tackles a problem which has plagued parents for generations – namely, that of accepting that your children are growing up – as seen through the eyes of the patriarchal Grug and his daughter, Eep. It also focuses upon Eep’s burgeoning wish for teenage independence and flourishing attraction to the independent Guy, who saves not only Eep from the constraints of her short-sighted family, but also her family from possible annihilation by embracing cataclysmic change with wonder and enthusiasm.
If all this makes the film sound alarmingly ‘deep’ for a child-friendly animation, fear not. From a neon-painted paradise (complete with man-eating plants and multitudinous exotic creatures) – which bursts from the screen after the initial muted landscape in which we meet the Croods – to the prerequisite array of memorable characters (particularly the ultra-cool Guy and his bizarre friend, Belt the sloth), everything’s approached with such irreverent exuberance that younger viewers should find plenty to entertain them. All in all, DreamWorks’ The Croods is a likeable example of how animated features can offer something for everyone in order to avoid box office extinction.