The Croods: A New Age (2020) Review

A CHARMING AND ENTERTAINING SEQUEL

 

After the critical praise yet middling box office results from 2012’s Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks Animation released The Croods, their latest computer animated comedy adventure, the following year. Written and directed by Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, the film, which starred the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, and Ryan Reynolds, is set in a fictional prehistoric Pliocene era known as “The Croodaceous” (a prehistoric period which contains fictional creatures) when a prehistoric caveman’s position as a “Leader of the Hunt” is threatened by the arrival of a younger / innovated newcomer, who comes up with revolutionary new inventions as they trek through a dangerous but exotic land in search of a new home. The Croods went on to received mostly positive reviews from critics and moviegoers as the film went on to garnish roughly $587 million at the box office worldwide. In 2015, Dawn of the Croods, an animated televisions series, continued the adventures of the Croods family on Netflix for four seasons. Additionally, there was plans for a potential sequel, but was the future The Croods 2 project was delayed / cancelled a few times. Now, a sequel installment emerges as DreamWorks Animation and director Joel Crawford present the movie The Croods: A New Age. Is this long-awaited sequel worth the watch or has this “caveman” family have gone extinct?

THE STORY


Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a now full-fledged pack member of the Croods caveman family, is madly in love with Eep (Emma Stone) and is beginning to feel their blossoming relationship is camped by their daily life in the family, who remain close all day and every day. Searching for a place know as their “Tomorrow” dwelling, Guy and the Croods discover a paradise walled-in farm filled with an abundance of delights and natural glorious to partake. To their discover, the oasis is home to Phill (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) Betterman, who are joined by their daughter, Dawn (Kelly Mare Tran), homo sapiens who have found comfort and evolved beyond their primitive ways within their splendorous dwelling and modernizes amenities. On top of that, the Bettermans once knew Guy’s parents, welcoming the young man into their family, with the hopes to finding a companion for Dawn. For Grug (Nicolas Cage), however, such comfort is suspicious, watching the rest of the family, including Ugga (Catherine Keener), Thunk (Clark Duke), and Gran (Cloris Leachman), get used to their surroundings. Trying to understand this new way of life, Grug attempts to befriend Phil, while Eep is frustrated by Guy’s alluring desire to remain behind the Betterman’s wall, which goes against her wild family’s instinct. Unfortunately, the Bettermans’ are keeping a secret to their lush oasis; dragging Guy and the Croods on a journey that will test their bonds together.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


To me, DreamWorks’s animated movies have had a bit of bumpy road, with some hitting it out of the parks and others completely missing their intended target. The Croods, in my regards, is somewhere in-between. Its story was simplistic and not the most original tale to be told (as previously mentioned above), but the film did work to hit its targeted demographic and make a decent return on its investment. Plus, no one can deny how absolutely colorful (visually speaking) the movie was as well as the terrific voice talents that were selected for the various characters. In short, while it does have the same palpable animated effectiveness in amongst some of its better cartoon features (i.e. Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon), The Croods still managed to a solid endeavor from DreamWorks. As a side-note, while I did mention that there was a four-season TV series that continued the adventures of the Croods after the movie ended, I actually never watched it. Heck, I really didn’t know it even existed until a few days ago. Though, I’ve never been the biggest fan of DreamWorks’s TV series, but that’s neither here nor there.

This, of course, brings me back to talking about The Croods: A New Age, the 2020 sequel film to the original 2013 animated tale. Given how The Croods ended, it was somewhat a forgone conclusion that DreamWorks’s animated movie would be a “one and done” endeavor, with not much interest (beyond the TV series) to create a film franchise or even a “next chapter” sequel effort. However, I do remember when it was announced (a few years ago) that a Croods 2 movie was “in the works” and the DreamWorks was gonna going to release the project in the coming years. After that, I really didn’t hear much about the movie, which was probably due to its several theatrical release delays dating all the way back from its original November 2017 release as well as the film being cancelled a few years prior to that (during when Universal bought up DreamWorks Animation rights). However, I remember hearing little “tidbits” about the movie being developed, which was fully realized when I saw the film’s movie trailer, which dropped online a few weeks ago. Personally, I was definitely intrigued to see this movie as, while the first movie wasn’t my favorite DreamWorks movie, was quite entertaining and this new trailer for a sequel to The Croods looked to fun and a great distraction piece for many during the hardships of 2020. So, I waited a week or two after its release (the film was released in theaters on Thanksgiving weekend) and I actually saw the movie in theaters during the beginning part of December (I went to a Cinemark theater that was still open). And what did I think of this Croods sequel? Well, I actually liked it. Despite a few nitpicks, The Croods: A New Age is a colorful and funny animated movie that’s quite a welcomed distraction to watch. It doesn’t surpass the original 2013 film, but its humorous and vibrant follow-up that’s quite entertaining from start to finish.

The Croods: A New Age is directed by Joel Crawford, whose previous works includes working on various animated projects like Kung Fu Panda 2, Rise of the Guardians, Shrek Forever After as a storyboard artist. Given his background in some of DreamWorks’s animated films, Crawford seems like a suitable choice to direct their latest film and does so with A New Age, which makes his directorial debut with this particular sequel project. In truth, Crawford actually does do a good job in his first time in the director’s chair; approaching the movie with a sense of family friendly entertainment that was accustom to the first Croods film. In this matter, A New Age succeeds. It doesn’t quite capture first Croods (more on that below), but Crawford gets the ball rolling on this second installment that keeps breezy, entertaining, and fun from start to finish. Crawford continues the first feature’s trend of the themes and narrative beats of family and unity with the Croods family; shaping A New Age to test the prehistoric caveman family to new limits, especially in Guy and Eep’s budding relationship and Grug’s attempts to give their family together. Additionally, there’s a good dose “female empowerment” that Crawford shines upon in the film’s various scenes (most notable in the second half). Plus, I do have to admit that the film’s various comedic jokes and gags are pretty funny as I found myself laughing out loud many times. It’s kind of like a combination of some of the writing material (storyboard moments), physical / sight gags, and the dialogue spoke by the film’s acting talent. Collectively, while the movie doesn’t outshine the original, Crawford’s A New Age is a fun follow-up to the first film and I think that Crawford did a great job helming this project.

Animation-wise, The Croods: A New Age is great and is definitely showcases the top-notch animation visuals that DreamWorks has to offer to us (the viewers). Visually speaking, all the vibrant colors throughout the entire feature was definitely one of the biggest highlights of made me like first Croods movie and I was kind of expecting that for A New Age and I wasn’t disappointed in this category. Every scene is brimming with color and incredibly style and I even notice a lot of small intricate detail that seemed quite enhanced throughout the movie, including sweat / grime on various characters and on background layouts. Definitely A New Age is one of the year’s best “looking” animated movies, so big kudos to all the various animators on this particular project. Additionally, the various members of the film’s art department for bring all the imaginative prehistoric world to life as well as continuing the trend of the first Croods movie with all of the unique and creative animal / creature designs that are different and interesting to see. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, delivers a great score that compliments the feature’s various scenes…. whether its quiet dialogue moments, wonderous expansive scenes, or bombastic action sequences.

The main criticism of A New Age is a harsh one as the film isn’t a disappointment (by no means), but rather it simply lacks the heartful merit that the first film was able to achieve. Again…. the film isn’t terrible or unmemorable as there is plenty to love and like about, but this second installment just seems to lack the same type of caliber that 2013’s The Croods conjured up. Why do say that? Well, the plot of the story is not exactly the most “freshness” narrative / plot to be produced for a cinematic animated tale as its quite clear where the story is heading almost immediately (even without glancing at the film’s movie trailers). Thus, there is a certain formula that A New Age follows and the result is something that definitely works, especially considering the movie is more “blaring” than the previous one, but lacks the extra “X factor” of drama / creative energy that the first movie had. Perhaps this with the script handling, which was penned by Paul Fisher, Bob Logan, Kirk DeMirco, Chris Sanders, and Kevin and Dan Hageman, for A New Age as there seems to be “too many cooks in the kitchen” with plenty of ideas, but not enough resolve to make for a “meaty” substance.

Like a lot of sequels or building franchises that DreamWorks has cultivated over the years, sometimes something gets lost in the passing of one film installment to the next and the certain ideas gets lost in that process. A New Age has plenty to offer (and I love it) and yet there is a lack of substance in the narrative department throughout the feature and the film could’ve been better with a more solid formation in the story / plot, especially considering DreamWorks can produce great stories (a balance of comedy and drama) within several of the animated features (Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon franchises). In short, A New Age is a solid distraction for better animated movie stock that DreamWorks has to offer, but lacks the originality and extra touch.

Additionally, there are a few minor criticism points that I also have with this movie that (like above) don’t derail my likeability for A New Age, but just a few nitpicks here and there. This includes some of the characters getting sidelined a bit for others, some of the climatic moments near the ending seem a bit recycled from other similar properties (i.e., the first How to Train Your Dragon movie), and a few “on the nose” political references that, while harmless, are little bit over-the-top.

What definitely helps overlook some of the points is in the voice talent department; finding A New Age’s cast to be incredibly solid with most (if not all) of the actors and actresses that provided the voices for the Crood family returning to reprise their roles for this new sequel. Despite the lengthy gap between both films, the characters (and their respective vocal performances provided) haven’t aged and are still incredibly fun and colorfully energetic throughout. Leading the charge in the movie are several of these returning characters, especially in the roles of Guy and Eep, who are once again played by actor Ryan Reynolds and actress Emma Stone. Reynolds, known for his roles in Deadpool, Woman in Gold, and Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, has been busy since recording the voice for Guy in the original 2013 film, but that doesn’t change the same likeable quality and frenetic energy he provides to the role of which he easily slides back into with joyful glee. Similarly, Stone, known for her roles in The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man, and La La Land, has become more of a prominent star in recent Hollywood films, but can still manages to bring a fun / free flowing charm to the role of Eep. Together, both characters of Guy and Eep are the more central focus on A New Age; creating the central conflict of the these two throughout the movie, alongside the various plot points in the feature. Additionally, both Reynolds and Stone’s infectious vocal energy is great and they certainly play off of each other in their dialogue banter.

Behind those two, the character of Grug plays a pivotal role in A New Age, with actor Nicolas Cage reprising his role once again. Known for his roles in The Rock, Face / Off, and Next, Cage was a big star in Hollywood during the 90s / early 00s, but has somewhat drifted to the wayside since then; offering up smaller roles here and there. Perhaps one of his best roles during this slump is in vocal performance in the role of Grug in 2013’s The Croods; projecting the right amount of heart, humility, and larger-than-life parental / father comedic charm into the character. Thankfully, Cage succeeds in bringing the same maniac and comedic charm persona back into Grug in A New Age and proves to be quite effective and definitely is one of the best. Grug’s story is a bit more secondary comparted to Guy and Eep, but Cage’s Grug is still capable to produce a memorable voice role in the character throughout.

The rest of the returning talents, including actress Catherine Keener (Get Out and Incredibles 2) as the matriarch of the family Ugga, actor Clark Duke (Bad Moms and Hot Tub Time Machine) as Grug and Ugga’s son Thunk, and actress Cloris Leachman (Young Frankenstein and The Last Picture Show) as the Crood’s grandmother Gran, make up the rest of the Croods’s family. These particular characters don’t have strong narrative storyline arcs in the movie as Guy Eep, and Grug, but the characters themselves are still amusing and colorfully fun in this sequel, with these vocal talents bringing them to life in a very charismatic way. Collectively, all of the returning acting talents from the previous film are the true “spark” of the movie as all seem to “gel” with each other and harmonize / playing off one another that makes this prehistoric family hilarious and congeal from onset to conclusion once again.

With all the previous returning voice actors returning to their posts, A New Age does bring on-board several new characters for this sequel as well as new voice talents, which are certainly welcomed addition to the feature. Naturally, I’m talking about actor Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones and X-Men: Days of Future Past) and actresses Leslie Mann (Blockers and How to be Single) and Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi and Sorry for Your Loss) as the Betterman family; playing the roles of Phil, Hope, and Dawn Betterman respectfully. With both Dinklage and Mann having very distinct voices, the pair shine the best and produce the some of the most memorable moments in the movie as both Phil and Hope, while Tran does a good job as Dawn. I just wish she was a bit more in the movie, but what gives is still solid. Collectively, the Betterman family, while not entirely original, are a comical bunch of new characters and definitely add a new flavor the Croods family and to A New Age. There are several other minor voice roles scattered throughout the movie, which are played by a few cameo-like voice talents, so be on the look out for them.

FINAL THOUGHTS


The Croods family is back and a new adventure awaits them; one that will test the very fabric of their close-knit family bonds in the film The Croods: A New Age. Director Joel Crawford’s latest film returns to the narrative of the comedic / yet family-oriented caveman family for another adventure wacky adventure of danger and discovery that works within the parameters of what was established in the original 2013 film. While the movie isn’t as strong as its predecessor (due to its narrative and various plot beats), the film does manage to be a very fun and entertaining animated endeavor that has plenty of charm and laughs, thanks to the feature’s visuals, humorous bits, colorful characters, and solid voice talents. Personally, I liked this movie. It was definitely a fun and amusing animated sequel that’s bright, colorful, and quite entertaining. Definitely one of the better DreamWorks sequels of late, yet not as strong as Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon sequels. Still, for what its worth, A New Age is a solid cartoon movie. Thus, my recommendation for this film is hard “recommendation” as I’m sure it will delight fans of the first film and the feature’s intended target audience. While the movie’s ending leaves open for a possible Croods 3 entry, I don’t think that the its quite necessary (DreamWorks shouldn’t ruin a good thing). In the end, The Croods: A New Age might not offer up “animation gold”, but proves to be a solid distraction to partake in the latest humorous adventure of the Croods family once again….

4.0 Out of 5 (Recommended)

 

Released On: November 25th, 2020
Reviewed On: December 14th, 2020

The Croods: A New Age  is 95 minutes long and is rated PG for peril, action, and rude humor

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