Saturday, January 25, 2014

Short Cut Movie Review: The Croods

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

I can’t figure out how The Croods, an animated film from Dreamworks, was nominated for the Oscar for Animated Feature over a couple of other options that were demonstrably better movies.

Emma Stone voices Eep, a typical American teenager in most respects excepting the fact that she lives in prehistoric caveman days. She whines and complains about not being able to leave the cave at night, her family is a real drag, and she goes bonkers over some new shoes. Her dad, Grug (Nicolas Cage) is an excessive worrier. Ugga (Catherine Keener) is the mom who goes along to get alone. Cloris Leachman is Gran, the hanger-on in the family, and Clark Duke is the dim-witted son, Thunk.

Eep meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds) one day. He’s the next step of evolution between Neanderthals and modern man. He’s more resourceful and has harnessed the power of fire. The world is beginning to come apart at the seams and Guy thinks he knows the way toward the future and away from death and destruction. Plus he’s totally hot and Eep looks at him with wonder when she’s not using the other facial expression in her limited arsenal: consternation.

Though the voice characterizations are flat and uninspired, the artistry of the computer animation is remarkable. There were moments when the characters looked so near to stop-motion creations, which is an incredible achievement. However, even though the rendering is top notch, directors Chris Sanders (also responsible for How to Train Your Dragon) and Kirk De Micco throw in everything but the kitchen sink in creating a fantasy prehistoric world. It is full of imaginative creatures that, to our eyes, are hybrids between animals as disparate as turtles and birds. And nearly all of them are out to harm the humans.

The palette is so busy, with too many moving parts to leave any time to focus on anything for any length of time. The same is true of the screenplay, written by Sanders and De Micco with a story credit to Monty Python’s John Cleese). There’s a major action beat almost every two or three minutes. The story just never lets up. It feels overbearing through the first half before it starts to settle down a little bit. Piling on more and more is not the key to a successful story, but I guess it goes a step toward placating kids who producers think can’t focus on anything for more than thirty seconds.

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