Dreamworks Animation, much like many studios, suffers their ups and downs. Whether that’s with incredible heights like How to Train Your Dragon, or tired rehashes like Madagascar 3, they fluctuate quite often. Personally, I tend to prefer the side of themselves that take the material seriously, like with How to Train Your Dragon and Rise of the Guardians. Their latest effort, The Croods, had me incredibly hopeful that it would be another really good film from them, being directed by Chris Sanders of Dragon and Lilo & Stitch fame. What I got, instead, is the side of Dreamworks that I usually have a tough time sitting through. Does that make it a bad movie, though? Well, no, but it still isn’t as good as it should be.
The story, originally started as an idea by comedy legend John Cleese, is simple. The Croods, led by family patriarch Grug, have survived for ages by sticking to fearful traditions of their ancestors. The daughter, Eep, eventually gets tired of living this same daily routine, preferring to seek out the new. The family eventually has no choice but to move, as the continental drift has caused the land to shatter and crumble. Along the way, they’re led by Guy, a traveler who not only embraces new customs, he’s fashioned nifty new tools from them. This goes against Grug’s upbringing, making the two polar opposites, especially because of Guy and Eep’s budding romance. The numerous family members must try to get along, use the new tools to survive, and make their way to a paradise beyond the mountains.
It’s a very cute concept, with an A-game voice cast, but the execution feels off. I’ve already established that I like it when Dreamworks take themselves seriously, but if they’re going to do a comedy, they ought to make sure they pace out the humor, keep it flowing, and let it come naturally. A lot of the stabs at humor tend to feel forced, sometimes becoming overly obnoxious. The energy is admirable, but I really wish they’d have taken the time to calm down. The best moments in this film are when the filmmakers actually give us time to let things sink in, but those moments aren’t nearly as present throughout as they should be, mostly reserved for the film’s wonderful third act, and having to fight with the comedy everywhere else. There are some good laughs, including some clever bits with Belt the Sloth, but I wish most of these jokes were thought through and took their time.
However, if you’re simply here to admire the technical aspects of this movie, that alone will be worth the price of admission. Dreamworks always delivers with great animation, and this is no exception. It’s BEAUTIFUL! Just looking at all the vivid landscapes, the diverse range of colors, the imaginative creature designs (Almost like something out of one of William Joyce’s stories), it really pops, even without 3D. The sound is no less detailed, it’s creative, and it boasts a fantastic score by Alan Silvestri. I don’t know what’s been going on with Dreamworks’ music department, who’ve recently been churning out equally fantastic hits by John Powell (Dragons) and Alexandre Desplat (Guardians), but whatever they’re doing, keep doing it!
All in all, The Croods is... fun. It’s not the follow up to Rise of the Guardians that I was hoping for, but on its own, it’s still not bad. I just wish they’d have calmed themselves down, and let things actually sink in for the audience to appreciate, and I think that it would have made for a great, even outstanding, movie. But for what it is, it’s an entertainer.
*** / *****