The Croods

Rating: ★★½☆☆

With Pixar’s stock as the world’s most dominant animation studio taking a hit in recent years, there’s ample opportunity for one of the other big hitters to take its place. DreamWorks Animation appears to be in search of another popular property which can get the franchise treatment following the success of 2010′s How to Train Your Dragon, though directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders – the latter of whom co-directed Dragon – can only wring so much visual pizzazz out of the thinly-drawn premise and trite truisms on offer here.

Playing out like The Flintstones-lite, The Croods depicts the day-to-day lives of a family of pre-historic cave-people, who live by the rule of patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage). For the sake of self-preservation, he insists that the family remain confined to their cave dwelling when not out hunting for good, something that his precocious teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) soon comes to challenge.

When sneaking out one night, Eeep comes across Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a super-smart caveman whose inventions, such as fire and shoes, come to change the lives of The Croods and indeed, all of mankind. Grug, meanwhile, strives to keep the family safe while coming to realise that his close-mindedness is at the expense of actually living.

Probably the worst thing I can say about The Croods is that it’s now been two days since I saw it, and there’s very little I can remember. The film’s bright spots are almost exclusively visual, as the narrative follows along the exceedingly familiar trajectory of a distended moral platitude.

Eep’s philosophy is that of the film’s, that taking measured risks is what life is all about, rather than staying confined to what you know; it’s just a shame that the film can’t follow its own advice, because the story is, pardon the pun, stuck in the stone age.

There are pleasures to be had, for sure, almost entirely pertaining to the various set-pieces scattered throughout, chiefly a number of chase sequences involving the imaginative creatures that litter the land. If the film begins and ends with a bang, it’s the filler in the middle that’s problematic; though Stone and Reynolds give particularly spirited vocal performances – though Cloris Leechman and Clark Duke are a hoot as well – their efforts feel only half-realised because the script is so unassuming and lacking in ambition.

Sanders and DeMicco coddle viewers with a dull, simplistic message likely to bore all but the most easily pleased children; parents, unable to glean a subversive undercurrent from the straight-up story, will likely struggle through it.

It might satisfy those crying out for another Flintstones movie, but on the whole, The Croods feels like an uninspired idea that’s evidently lacking in enthusiasm. Though it has the good sense not to compensate for its lack of imagination with insipid pop-culture references, there’s still little of interest to make the film anything more than a brief, forgettable diversion. Furthermore, after the 3D majesty of Sanders’ previous film, there’s little that pops out at viewers despite the promise of the chaotic, spritely finale.

There was plenty of potential for The Croods to deliver a daring climax in shades of How to Train Your Dragon’s unexpected amputee hero, but it instead opts for safe formula, and is destined to evaporate into the animated movie ether as a result. DreamWorks’ latest is a lusciously mounted but simple-minded adventure that won’t long linger in your memory.

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The Croods is in cinemas this Friday.

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This article was first posted on March 19, 2013