Film Title: The Croods
Director: Kirk DeMicco
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener
Running Time: 98 min
Parents still knocked sideways by the most recent episode in the increasingly dreadful – and stubbornly successful – Ice Age franchise could be forgiven for recoiling from this animation about the last days of the cavemen (similarities to William Golding’s The Inheritors are entirely coincidental).
Fear not. Co-directed by Chris Sanders, brains behind the excellent How to Train Your Dragon , the latest flick from DreamWorks turns out to be moving, funny and highly original.
The film has its own unlikely pre-history. Still carrying a story credit for John Cleese, The Croods was originally intended for Aardman Studios. The eventual result is glossier than most of that enterprise’s work, but it still retains a stripe of admirable oddness.
We focus on a family of broad- shouldered, endlessly discordant cave-dwellers headed by a grim realist named Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage ). Following various natural disasters, the Croods, the last surviving humans in their locale, have elected to spend as much time as possible in their shadowy lair. Everything new is to be feared.
One day Eep (Emma Stone ), Crug’s terrifying daughter, happens upon the imaginative Guy (Ryan Reynolds ) – so advanced he can set fires – and starts to imagine fresh, adventurous ways to avoid the coming apocalypse.
As in Dragon, the film-makers work hard at emulating the look generated by a traditional mobile film camera. Images judder. Focus is often shallow. What we’re looking at is a fantastic, absurdly heightened version of the prehistoric world: killer fruit jostle with monstrous birds and land-locked whales. Though the stone-age family do – like a certain Fred and Wilma– act out modern suburban anxieties, they are, for the most part, impressively savage and untamed. The baby is a Tasmanian Devil. Granny seems shrouded in ancient evil.
If you were minded to be picky, you could argue that the film loses its nerve in the last 15 minutes. But we shouldn’t expect too much raw poignancy from a family entertainment. A near-perfect Easter holiday diversion.