Clark Duke, Kailey Crawford and Cloris Leachman voice Thunk, Sandy and Gran in “The Croods: A New Age”
Remember “The Croods?” It wouldn’t be surprising if your answer was “no.”
The Dreamworks Animation film seemed to blip on the radar in 2013 and disappear despite racking up $600 million at the global box office. A sequel had been planned after its box office success and an Oscar nomination, but it’s taken seven years to come to fruition.
“The Croods: A New Age” is slated to hit theaters on Thanksgiving. The film follows the Croods, a prehistoric family voiced by Nicholas Cage (Grug), Emma Stone (Eep), Catherine Keener (Ugga) and Ryan Reynolds (Guy), as they search for a safe place to call home. The family discovers a walled-in paradise that is already inhabited by another family, called the Bettermans.
The enlightened and evolved Bettermans know Guy, a nomadic character the Croods met during the first film, and spend much of the film trying to pull the young man away and pair him off with their daughter, Dawn. Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran round out the voice cast as the Bettermans.
Tensions escalate between the families, but those differences will have to be cast aside when a new threat forces them to work together.
“The Croods: A New Age” currently holds a 69% “Fresh” rating from Rotten Tomatoes from 29 reviews. As more reviews roll in, this rating is likely to change.
In pre-pandemic times, there would be dozens more reviews present on the review site. However, due to social distancing guidelines, critic screenings have been canceled in favor of sending digital links. Additionally, some publications have scaled back on reviews, which can rely heavily on paying freelance writers, for budgetary reasons.
Despite a decent slate of reviews, many critics wonder if it is really worth it for audiences to abandon their couches and head out to the big screen to see the film.
“Will people strap on a mask after Thanksgiving turkey and head out to see one of the few blockbusters released this season?” Brian Tallerico, of RogerErbert.com, asks in his review of the film. “The business story here could make for some interesting headlines, especially if it ends up a financial loser for the company willing to risk opening it in theaters.”
Cinema owners are hopeful that “The Croods: A New Age” will lure parents and kids back to the theater despite a continued surge in coronavirus cases and the threat of more cinema closures. But industry analysts aren’t as optimistic the family-friendly title will be a box office savior.
Here’s a rundown of what critics said about “The Croods: A New Age” ahead of its Thanksgiving debut:
Tallerico described the film as “hyperactive and shallow” in his review posted Monday.
“A decent first half and solid voice work throughout succumbs to total chaos for the second half and the realization that there’s almost no actual artistic intent here,” he wrote. “No story, no character, no world-building, no design. It’s all bright colors and loud noises.”
Like many critics, Tallerico was quick to point out that “The Croods: A New Age” retreads over familiar ground covered in the first film. Grug, the father of the prehistoric family, learns that he can’t be too protective of his children and must step out of his comfort zone to survive.
The film “is content to tell pretty much the same story only louder,” he said.
Emma Stone ad Kelly Marie Tran voice Eep and Dawn Betterman in “The Croods: A New Age.”
David Rooney, a critic with The Hollywood Reporter, too found the story overstuffed and repetitive. He blamed the writing team of brothers Kevin and Dan Hageman, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan and director Joel Crawford for the uninspired plot.
“That committee has taken characters with limited charm and given them even less distinction, plugging a mostly samey continuation of their story full of action so manic and exhausting it often plays like a video game,” he wrote.
A rare bright spot in the film, however, comes in the writing team’s decision to buck the trope of two girls fighting over a man. Eep and Dawn Betterman are set up as likely rivals for the affections of Guy. However, the two girls become friends and bond over their very different life experiences.
Ultimately, this subplot is not enough to carry the movie, which has a “concluding message almost identical to that of the first movie,” Rooney said.
“Despite the talents of the pro voice cast (Cage and Stone once again are MVPs) and the attention to detail in the CG environments, the movie is more often assaultive than engaging, and seldom genuinely funny,” he said.
“‘The Croods,’ as a concept, is still a good one,” Matt Fowler, a critic for IGN, wrote in his review of the film.
He praised the voice actors, the returning cast and the new additions, for their chemistry.
“Cage’s mania mixes excellently with Stone’s squealing glee, and Reynolds is just a gift to action-comedy, in general,” Fowler wrote.
For Fowler, the world of “The Croods” is still worth a visit whether it’s at the cinema or in a few weeks when the film becomes available on premium video on-demand.
“‘The Croods: A New Age,’ while modestly funny at times, still collapses a bit under the weight of animation sequelitis,” he wrote.
The prehistoric family the Croods are challenged by a rival family the Bettermans, who claim to be better and more evolved.
“Even if the pandemic wasn’t a thing, this second ‘Croods’ would be a head-scratcher,” Josh Spiegel writes of the film in his review for Slashfilm. “Its decent success aside, the original film is arguably forgotten enough that the second film has to open with one of its characters catching us up on the story.”
Spiegel said the film serves as a reminder of how recently Dreamworks Animation had become a competitive threat against Disney’s animation groups Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Animation. He said “The Croods: A New Age” feels “uninspired” when compared with film franchises like “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung-Fu Panda,” which have been praised for their animation quality and emotional resonance.
“The story is fairly rote, a blend of the hoariest ‘Flintstones’–esque cliches to fill out a feature-length running time,” Spiegel wrote. “Will Eep and Guy reconcile? Or will Guy be swayed by the Bettermans to change his whole personality? Will Grug learn to live with the Bettermans? Contain your lack of surprise at the answers.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Dreamworks Animation and Rotten Tomatoes.