I started watching animated movies for this week because I felt like I wasn’t watching enough new releases. Once I formed the list, I began to see why. There just haven’t been any truly great animated movies released in the last couple of years from the major studio systems. With the rising costs of CGI animation, it seems like Disney, Dreamworks and Pixar are playing it safe. They are producing sleek bright animated movies that can easily be transformed into a 3D experience but forgetting about having a good story and interesting characters. The Croods is another entry in a long line of films that Dreamworks is trying to release in order to recapture the magic of Shrek, their first major hit. This results in a copy of a copy of a good film and a totally boring experience.
The Croods are the last surviving Neanderthal family at least that they know of. Their lives consist of staying in a deep, dark cave for days only to emerge to go hunting. The patriarch (Grug, voiced by Nicholas Cage) watches over the family that consists of a wife, two kids (one older and female and the other younger and male) and a grandma. The outside world is a hostile place to them, full of wild and strange specimens. One night the daughter goes out of the cave to explore. She finds a young man, named Guy, and instantly falls in lust for him. (at least the kind of lust that can be portrayed in a children’s movie) Guy tells her and her family that the world is going to end soon and they must journey outside of their comfort zone in order to survive. After a bunch of hemming and hawing, the family is forced out into the wild new world. Grug gets into a conflict with Guy almost immediately upon meeting him. Grug must learn through a series of events how to trust that not everything is out to get him and his family.
There is absolutely nothing interesting about this film. The quirky mannerisms of each character feels like the they were just transplanted from the Ice Age films onto Neanderthals. The girl is lively and rebellious. The father is protective and bull headed. The mother is… well, motherly. The boy is stupid. The grandma is a little crazy. The love interest has a vibrant sense of adventure that is encouraged by his animal companion. These characters could easily have been an aging superhero family or a bunch of cars. It doesn’t matter that they are in this pre-civilzation world, because the filmmakers do nothing to utilize the setting except make odd looking and colorful animals that are always out to kill the family. They don’t seem to care that this world is full of unique conflicts. The end of the world can be a powerful motivator, but this is completely wasted here. Instead the filmmakers are content with just making the exact same movie they made last year and the year before. It makes me sad to know that these filmmakers had an infinite amount of resources at their disposal and yet they churned out something by the numbers when there are so many talented animators and filmmakers dying to get the chance to truly let their dreams run wild. It is disappointing and it keeps me up at night.