“The Croods” should quickly earn the distinction of best caveman comedy ever.
When you see what it’s up against, however, that's not particularly high praise.
Unlike everyone’s favorite animated cave-era family, “The Flintstones,” who are a self-billed modern stone-age family, there's absolutely nothing modern about the Croods. They are first-generation human, a fact confirmed by Grandma’s tail.
They live a simple, stark existence, competing with wild animals by day for meager portions of food and holing up at night in their cave to avoid being eaten by nocturnal beasts. Their neighbors have all been wiped out by this harsh existence and they're all that remain. Their mantra is simple: New things are bad and will kill you, so stay away from them.
The Crood family consists of dad Grug (Nicolas Cage), mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), grandma Gran (Cloris Leachman), son Thunk (Clark Duke), daughter Eep (Emma Stone) and baby Sandy (Randy Thom). Only Eep is dissatisfied with their survivalist lifestyle and longs for more.
Their simple world is first upturned by the arrival of Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a more-evolved boy who has discovered fire and who, unlike the Croods, has embraced learning about new things. Eep is intrigued by Guy, but her father wants nothing to do with him.
However, Guy also brings with him the news that they cannot stay in their home because he's been running from earthquakes and volcanoes; they're going to have to run, too. They're forced to go on a road trip with Guy and his pet sloth-like creature, Belt, so they'll have to face countless new things.
A big portion of the film is reminiscent of the popular “Ice Age” movies. Instead of talking animals fleeing from an onslaught of ice and snow, we have a cave family fleeing from falling rocks and rivers of molten lava. Along the way, they have non-stop adventure as well as some self-realization and personal growth.
The humor in “The Croods” is largely predictable and not very original, as they dish out physical comedy, Dad-versus-new-boyfriend bits, endless mother-in-law jokes, and gags about their awe over such simple things as fire and footwear.
The animation lives up to Dreamworks’ standards: The Croods’ world and its creatures are intricate and interesting, and the Croods themselves are quite lifelike. For cartoon cavemen, that is.
Don’t expect to see “The Croods” lining up at the Oscars next year. As DreamWorks animations go, its storyline doesn’t come close to the “Shrek” series, “Madagascar” films or “Kung Fu Panda” movies.
But as harmless family entertainment, the movie is an acceptable Saturday matinee choice.