The Croods: A New Age manages to skate by on whimsy and craziness. Like the preceding film, it is cranked up to 11 the entire time but little pockets of emotion to give it heft. The original Croods came out in 2013 and the sequel is coming out in 2020 which is almost an ice age length between animated installments, but this does a good job of setting up the world and getting to the point quickly. In broad strokes, the plot is basically the same as the first film as a new, more evolved humans cause disruption with the stone-age family, but this keeps things zippy with an energetic cast and rapid fire gags. It may not be an innovative animated entry, but it is a solidly enjoyable one.
The Croods are a prehistoric brood compromised of daughter Eep (Emma Stone), mother Ugga (Catherine Keener), father Grug (Nicolas Cage), son Thunk (Clark Duke), Gran (Cloris Leachman), crazy toddler Sandy and the homo sapien they picked up on their last adventure, Guy (Ryan Reynolds). They come across a more evolved family of humans living behind a gate with plentiful resources named the Bettermans with father Phil (Peter Dinklage), mother Hope (Leslie Mann) and the sheltered daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). Even more astonishing, the Bettermans were close friends with Guy’s parents so he is basically coming home after a long time on the road. While most of the Croods take to being a Betterman easily, Grug is standoffish, not liking how the family are growing apart. But it turns out Grug’s jealousy towards his new hosts may cause a giant problem that will send their newfound home crashing down.
The voice actors are basically doing a lot of hollering but it fits because the animation is incredibly exaggerated. Thankfully, the few moments the intensity slows down and they have to deliver emotional pathos, it feels earnest. Dinklage as Phil is perfectly condescending and smarmy and when things get intense his screaming is so loud it gets a laugh. Probably the best, weirdest scene is when Grug and Phil are in Phil’s man cave as Phil gets Grug to bend to his idea. His man cave turns out to be literally a secret cave where Phil hangs out, not the best joke but sometimes obvious ones are amusing. Dinklage has always leaned towards being a campy actor so it’s fun to hear him go fully out there.
The movie is at its best at with frantic, split second gags, like a recurring bit when someone gets jabbed in the eye that is called back enough times with the exact same reaction that it becomes hilarious. The Croods: A New Age moves so fast it may be headache inducing if one isn’t in the proper mindset for zaniness. Eep explains her various scars to Dawn in a rapid-fire bit that takes about 5 seconds but it spurs her to take Dawn out for a ride outside of the compound walls and Dawn is ecstatic when she gets a scar of her own. Like the rest of the voice cast, Tran is dialed way up but since most of her live action performances are rather subdued it is funny to hear her squealing. Dawn getting a bee sting infection has one of the funnier moments in the film when Guy frantically tries to hide her grossly swollen hand from her parents.
The running bit about Thunk being addicted to viewing things through a window as a metaphor for smartphone addiction is basically just one gag over and over but it has some fun reactions. The movie more focuses on developing some characters, leaving the remaining Croods crew to basically be sight gags. The toddler Sandy is basically a pit-bull providing funny quick visual jokes. The Grandma gets in a stirring speech about them being “Thunder Sisters” coming together for a “Charge!” attack (with their own logos!) that is ridiculously over the top but stirring.
Unsurprisingly but enjoyably, there is an outside threat that unites them. The set-up for the outside threat is a little easy to figure out; Phil keeps telling the Croods they can’t eat any of the bananas lying around and it is quite obvious he is using the bananas as an offering to keep a larger monster at bay. This causes the men to be captured by Punch Monkeys which leads to a very funny scene when Guy reveals he’s fluent in Punch Monkey which is basically an excuse for him to be punched in the face repeatedly and Reynolds has some funny exasperated reactions (“I am not translating that again!” he says after being punched about five times). The finale is a candy-coloured giant monster fight with rapid gags and over the top gross out moments. And the credits play over a Tenacious D cover of “I Think I Love You” which may be on the nose thematically but feels right.
The Croods: A New Age doesn’t push any boundaries, but it is a solid sequel that shows this family is worth revisiting every few years. As the cast are all screaming chaos it is nice and frantic which makes New Age an enjoyable, if incredibly loud, animated division.
The Croods: A New Age
Director: Joel Crawford
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds