Friday, March 22, 2013

The Crummy and “The Croods”

Movie Review by Jack Silbert
I wish I hadn’t watched the credits. Based on its own merits, The Croods is an entertaining-enough movie for you to take the kids to on a weekend afternoon if there’s nothing better playing. (Hint: Oz the Great and Powerful is still in theaters.) But, I’m a fairly obsessive credit reader—blame Ferris Bueller for me always staying till the theater lights come back on—and there it was. A “story” co-credit for John Cleese. The John Cleese? One of my Monty Python heroes?

So when I got home, I hit up the Google machine. And yes, way back in 2005, it was announced that Cleese had co-written a stop-motion film entitled Crood Awakening. And it would be produced by the wonderfully inventive firm Aardman Animations, of Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run fame. Could this have been the Best. Children’s. Movie. Ever?

We’ll never know. Time is cruel, and time is crude. So long, Aardman, so long Cleese script, hello The Croods.

Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone
Not that the movie is without merits. Do you like 3-D? There’s a whole lot of running around and coming-right-at-you sort of stuff. It’s a fantasized prehistoric world, which makes for cool visuals, but tell little Billy not to quote the movie as nonfiction when he heads back to class on Monday.

And there are some funny touches throughout, such as a few Flintstones-esque modern incongruities (a shell is their cellphone, for example). Nicolas Cage (as the voice of Grug) has an amusing sequence where he tries to be a “cool dad.” Clark Duke, who plays one of those new characters who you don’t know the name of on this crummy final season of The Office, gets some laughs as Grug’s nervous son. And if Cloris Leachman’s Maw Maw on Raising Hope is your favorite television character, I have good news: She plays the same exact character here.

Emma Stone voices Eep
My biggest disappointment is Emma Stone’s character Eep. Early on I was thinking, fantastic, the rare strong female lead in a children’s film—this will be empowering for girls in the audience. I tried not to be upset that visually, the character is unnecessarily sexualized. But then Ryan Reynolds shows up as hunky Guy, and Eep becomes just another head-over-heels teen girl following a boy around. She actually becomes a secondary character. Come on, Emma Stone, this is your window as an It Girl, throw some weight around the vocal booth and think about your impressionable female fans.

On the big spinning wheel of Children’s Movie Positive Messages, The Croods lands on: Don’t live your life in fear; explore the world around you. I just wish the filmmakers had followed that advice and been a little less afraid to put together a quirkier, bolder movie. You know, something that John Cleese and Aardman might’ve done.

All images ©DreamWorks. Not for reuse.

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