Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Croods

Rating: ★½

When will DreamWorks assembly-line cartoon comedies finally become extinct? Their latest CGI family comedy The Croods is just as uninspiring as many of their other films. It saddens me sometimes that audiences are still buying into this kind of second-rate entertainment.

The Croods is set in a prehistoric land where danger lurks around every corner. Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) and her family are some of the last surviving neanderthals but it's only because her father is so overprotective and hardly allows the rest of the family to leave their dark cave. Eep, similar to other DreamWorks characters before her, longs to rebel against her father and break free from her metaphorical prison. When their cave gets destroyed the Croods meet a young caveman called Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who takes them on a journey to find a safer home on higher ground. Basically, it's a tacky version of The Land Before Time.

A Crud Family Stereotype
The main problem I had with this film was the extremely stereotypical depiction of the modern family. We have the peace-keeping mum who is the only person ever seen to be looking after the baby, the rebellious headstrong teenage girl, the annoying senile grandma and worst of all the over protective father who is embarrassingly desperate to have his daughter stay a little girl. The Croods are so ridiculously clichéd, watching them was like watching a family in a bad 70s sitcom. I realise the film is set 30,000 years ago but the Croods are meant to mirror an average family or the film's tag line wouldn't be 'meet the first modern family'.

Modern Caveman
You can suspend your disbelief to a certain extent but in one scene when the Croods are on their journey and Guy invents the umbrella, shoes, and several other modern-day items, I couldn't help but cringe. It was like seeing one joke told over and over again. And I couldn't help thinking that if Pixar had made this film they would have embraced the prehistoric setting instead of trying to update it in such a cheap and tacky way.

Bone Head Dad
One scene I took a particular dislike to, was the one in which Eep's Dad Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) attacks Guy because he feels upstaged by his inventions. This was just plain creepy, instead of being funny - given that Guy was obviously supposed to be Eep's love interest. It's such an outdated idea that the Dad would be disapproving (and almost jealous) of his daughter's boyfriend, especially when he's so clever (and trying to help save the family!) I didn't feel sympathetic towards any of the characters or invested in the family's relationship dynamic - unlike the mother-daughter relationship in Brave which is so well-developed and which any member of a family can relate to emotionally.

Unlike in Ice Age, director Chris Sanders has decided to 'reimagine' what prehistoric life would be life by adding lots of colour and make-believe creatures. I thought that the creatures were really well-imagined, striking and creative but I couldn't get round the sneaking suspicion that they'd invented make-believe environments because they couldn't be bothered to do any real research into this time period.

Emma Stones
Emma Stone was a major disappointment too. I'm usually a big fan of the charisma and life she brings to roles but Eep felt remarkably flat and uninteresting. The script probably didn't help - with her character being stuck halfway between a sassy contemporary teenager and a neanderthal. But worst of all was her weird relationship with Guy which seemed really forced, mostly because they had no chemistry. He was smart and articulate and she was reckless, impulsive and really rather stupid.

Ain't Not Flintstones
Ultimately, the biggest beef I have with DreamWorks is that their films are all so formulaic - so after seeing one or two of them, you've basically seen them all - and The Croods is no different. First of all you have a premise, which is so painfully basic it patronises even its youngest audience members. That premise is then saturated with mature jokes, most of which will go straight over their heads. And frankly, it won't matter even if you do get the gags, because you'll have already seen them all in the trailer. In my opinion DreamWorks need to stop churning out these films at such speed and focus on developing more interesting plots and better, more multi-layered and engaging characters. They've got 8 films planned for the next two years!! I rest my case. But then again, they do make a lot of money with this junk, so who am I to judge?

But if you're looking for fast-paced, well-produced, action-packed family entertainment, then The Croods is your best bet - but I'm warning you it will numb your brain and you may well come out of the cinema feeling like a neanderthal!

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