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Star-studded animation underscores inevitability of change

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CAGE. Lend stellar voices to animated adventure’s beleaguered protagonists

In “The Croods,” Guy and Eep, the teenage cartoon characters voiced by Ryan Reynolds and Emma Stone, are having a hard time keeping romantic sparks flying, because Grug (Nicolas Cage), the latter’s disapproving father, always gets in the way of their burgeoning romance.

But, young love and generational clashes aren’t the only themes driving Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco’s view-worthy animated prehistoric romp. As entertaining as it is heart-warming, the film reminds viewers of the inevitability of change and the indispensability of family.

Grug and his cave-dwelling loved ones—composed of his dutiful wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener); his 9-year-old, 6’3” tall son, Thunk (Clark Duke); his ball-busting mother-in-law, Gran (Cloris Leachman); his stone-tough toddler, Sandy, and rebellious Eep—live in an age that holds innumerable changes for its beleaguered inhabitants.

When Mother Nature’s seismic shifts destroy the cave that has long been home to the Croods, the members of the world’s “first modern family” embark on an exciting journey that forces them to re-evaluate the stiflingly overprotective father’s primitive “fear is good; change is bad” mantra and his “darkness brings death” warnings—and introduces them to an incredible, new world filled with limitless possibilities.

Shortly thereafter, Grug encounters the biggest threat to his family yet, in the person of Guy, the new kid on the prehistoric block, whose “subversively” inventive ideas he must protect his impressionable daughter from! Even his family is impressed, especially after they’re introduced to fire, rain, stars, jokes, their first family portrait (a particularly funny section), and their first pair of shoes!

Loyal sloth

With his loyal sloth, Belt, by his side, Guy further threatens the Croods’ (static) status quo with his “radical” concept of pets: “A pet is an animal you don’t eat,” he explains to the family, whose sole experience with nonhuman creatures has been to eat animals—or run away from them!

STONE. Lend stellar voices to animated adventure’s beleaguered protagonists

Ryan Reynolds believes that the movie owes its accessibility to the parallel reality conjured up by DreamWorks’ animation wizards: “The journey the movie’s characters take is vibrant, breathtaking, and offers so much for the eyes to process!”

Indeed, when you’re not “processing” the film’s pop-culture references and Looney Tunes-channeling gags about the cavemen’s way of life (to which the film owes its uneven humor), you’ll have a grand time being regaled by the exhilarating beauty of the world as imagined by Sanders and DeMicco’s team.

Like “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” however, the star-studded animated adventure’s befuddlingly dark 3D rendering compromises its visual flair and beauty—an unexpected distraction that’s hard to overlook because, after all, “The Croods” is produced by 3D-animation visionary Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks.

Aside from Cage, Stone and Reynolds’ complementary portrayals, the production’s “progressive” depiction of its headstrong, rough-and-tumble heroine is impressive.

We wonder, though, why Eep is drawn as a shapely but plain-looking protagonist—a decision that invites greater scrutiny when the movie plays out the teenage heroine’s romance with the charming, mild-mannered and good-looking Guy. Can’t a woman be bold, brawny and beautiful at the same time?

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December 18, 2014

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