TV spots for the Dreamworks/20th Century Fox collaboration entitled The Croods describe the prehistoric family as “the first modern family” – I suppose, trying to connect this new animated family to a current popular commodity. It shouldn’t stoop that low because The Croods is a good film and has every right to stand on its own.
Grugg (voiced by Nicolas Cage who sounds as if he’s been longing for an animated role) and his wife Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener) have a rather busy family who’s sole purpose on earth is to survive and not interact with anything “new”. This doesn’t sit well with Eep (voiced by a recognizable Emma Stone) who wall climbs and seeks anything that steps outside the norm of living in a cave.
A disaster occurs causing the family to relocate. But, by staying close to their homestead for ages, it’s tough to adapt and survive. Luckily, a teenage rascal named Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) and his cute lil’ buddy Belt (voiced by co-director/co-writer Chris Sanders) jump into the film and offer inventive ideas and strategies in order to help the Croods find a new abode.
And like Guy and Belt, this animated film co-directed and co-written by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders is very creative and also takes full advantage of the 3D technology with action-packed races and thrilling road bumps along their journey.
The 3D effects are especially immersive in The Croods when new, vivid environments are uncovered and wild cross breeds are discovered. Everything is so well-drawn and easy on the eyes, that it all feels too real even if we realize this is a cartoon. The humans all have the usual traits of a cartoon character, but the detail in their skin and rough nature makes them believable – even if the line between being a neanderthal and being virtually invincible is non-existent.
The fun really takes off when we recognize the objects Guy thinks up as he constructs them out of the materials around him. Call him a prehistoric MacGyver. We see how fish could be used as slippers and how a shabbily created puppet can be used as a distraction. It’s this thinking in the script and how these creations are carried out that takes the story outside-of-the-box and makes it an innovative ride.
However, when the inventiveness is this strong, it’s easy for the strengths to cloud how tired some of the story is. Grugg likes the old fashioned way of living and doesn’t agree with these new fangled ideas that Guy conjures up. It’s a recurring theme of disapproving inevitable change and feeling left behind as everyone else accepts something new into their lives. This feels a little heavy-handed after the last of many of Grugg’s temper tantrums.
Also, a little of the Croods’ thick headedness goes a long way. It’s funny – namely a scene where the the family is dealing with their first encounter with fire – but when the jokes really pound in those lunkhead moments proving that this bunch may not be the sharpest stalactites in the cave, the deliveries become a bit too obvious in the writing and in the actors’ speech.
There are great themes in The Croods that young ones will pick up on and are appreciated from older moviegoers. Themes such as taking risks and problem solving are proper messages to include in a film aimed towards young ones who may be afraid of taking that plunge to try something new. These decisions lead to that creative mind that really makes The Croods tick and will surely inspire those young viewers to take more leadership roles.
And with that, those strong themes almost overshadow the elements that hamper The Croods, but not quite. The film’s inventiveness, taking more of a prominent role in the film over these messages, is always displayed with Reynolds’ Guy and the natural progression of the Croods. But still, those flaws in the screenplay can’t be covered.
The Croods may not be as great as most recent animated endeavours, but those positives sure make it an easy recommendation for families and fans of animation. I’ll be eagerly awaiting the inevitable sequel.
By: Addison Wylie
The most difficult task the audience must carry out while watching The Amazing Spider-Man is trying to distance this new origin story of the web-slinging superhero from Sam Raimi’s version starring Toby Maguire.
The Social Network’s Andrew Garfield takes the role of high schooler Peter Parker; a quiet individual who tools around with mechanics and could read about scientific discoveries all day when he’s not pulling off kickflips on his skateboard.
Instead of Mary Jane Watson, in this newer version, Emma Stone plays Gwen Stacy, an attractive girl who may or may not have a crush on Parker, and who is the daughter of a police Captain (played terrifically by Denis Leary).
With this story playing out differently than the one we saw in Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man, the changes are jarring as well as absent details such as any reference to the Daily Bugle. However, whether these changes are most faithful to the original material I can’t comment on. I haven’t read the Spider-Man comics so I rely on these movies or through avid Marvel go-getters to learn about the character. So, it is possible that these drastic changes in the script (written by Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, and James Vanderbilt with Vanderbilt also supplying the story) better the film for comic aficionados.
Maybe in order for this revamped version to have worked more blissfully without audiences being initially judgemental, the studio should’ve allowed a few more years for the franchise to settle. For many of us, we still have the bad taste of 2007′s overloaded Spider-Man 3 in our mouths.
It’s too late to wait though. The studio, as well as (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb, have jumped on it and have brought us this surprising and immensely entertaining film.
The Amazing Spider-Man works in its own universe. Let me explain.
The Raimi Spidy flicks work because they are, by definition, comic book movies. Raimi was able to bring those panels to life with excitement, a fast pace, and elements of pure camp and cheese.
The Amazing Spider-Man has none of that camp or cheesiness that made Raimi’s films memorable and fun but Webb’s Spider-Man does have that same excitement. It’s also a more modernized and matured film. It works as an adaptation of a character we know and as a stand alone project.
Parker is no longer a squeaky nerd but rather an introvert who would much rather take pictures and spend time on the computer while also occasionally standing up to the school bully. The deeper backstory behind why Parker has no Mother or Father is also elaborated on which makes us care about Peter and believe him when he’s upset.
Maguire worked as that gung-ho cut-out of a geeky underdog but Garfield and the screenwriters are able to build Parker into a more dimensionalized hero.
My fear going into The Amazing Spider-Man was that the film was going to try to hit too many dark notes. After all, ever since Nolan reinvented the genre with his Batman films, filmmakers have felt the need to add too much drama and too many villains. I reach back to the aforementioned Spider-Man 3. That movie did not need that many baddies and, therefore, the focus was all over the place.
In The Amazing Spider-Man, there’s plenty of drama to counter the action, and even a couple of notable people die, but all of it feels necessary and a lot of it surprises us. This may be labeled as a remake but how the material has been handled feels very organic.
By the film’s middle, audiences will stop comparing the two properties. You’ll slink back and relax in your chair and enjoy the action, the acting, and most of all, how a group of people managed to pull off a feat like this without making it feel irrelevant.
SIDE NOTE: If we want to talk about irrelevance, let’s talk about 3D. I was fortunate enough to see this without the fancy glasses and the viewing experience was still fantastic. Watching the film, I couldn’t find anything that would be remotely more interesting in 3D and I would also dare to say that the dark hue of the glasses would put a damper those visuals. Just observations, of course.