Dreamworks belated caveman sequel dominated the box office for months. How good is it?
Not having caught the original Croods way back in 2013, I was a bit shocked that the sequel absolutely ruled theaters for pretty much most of 2021 so far. It’s just barely behind Tenet as the highest grossing film of the year, and it still is hanging tough in the top ten after being out for three months (and being available digitally!) Was The Croods 2 another flash in the pan, or, like Sonic the Hedgehog, was there a real fire underneath all of the box office smoke?
Having given these prehistoric weirdos a viewing, I think The Croods A New Age hit an odd sweet-spot that resonated with audiences. Amidst all of the isolation, tragedy, and tension of the pandemic era, The Croods 2 is a high energy, high fun movie about love, family, and adapting to a changing world. A silly caveman movie wound up being just the recipe 2021 needed to help put 2020 in the rearview.
The Croods: A New Age (2020)
Still searching for a place to settle down after the cataclysmic events of The Croods (2013), the overprotective prehistoric patriarch, Grug, leads his family to the great unknown. Hoping for the best in an increasingly dangerous world, while trying to come to terms with Eep and Guy’s budding romance, Grug stumbles upon a secluded Eden of plenty, containing everything that they have been seeking. However, there is a catch. This verdant heaven on Earth is already occupied by the significantly more evolved Bettermans: Phil, Hope, and their daughter, Dawn. Now, as tensions boil over between the antagonistic clans, a new menace threatens the future of both families.
What Went Wrong?
- Nothing, Really. I wracked my brains trying to find faults with the Croods second outing…and I didn’t come up with much that was a real sticking point. There are a few slower points in the pace, but they’re few and far inbetween. The intro is a bit abrupt, but does catch you up with the story from a first movie that’s almost a decade old, so it’s a necessary evil. A few characters seem to get left behind, but they are funny when the spotlight eventually swings back around to them. The animation may not be Soul or Onward levels of wizardry, but they’re unique and engaging. I just can’t think of anything The Croods did to make me not enjoy the hell out of the movie. So…I’m giving the other two spots I usually keep for negatives to the positive category!
What Went Right?
- Madcap Energy. As soon as the exposition is done, the movie launches into breathless action that rarely lets up. The Crood family are a physical bunch, so it makes sense they’re always crashing from one obstacle to the next, obliterating everything in their path with gleeful abandon. The animation style really plays up this physicallity: even the posh Betterman family move with fluid energy in their more lanky, gangly kind of way. It all comes to a head with the “wimmins” of the family having to rescue the men from a tribe of punch monkeys…which leads to a fantastic melee combat with the ladies riding giant creatures accompanied by a rocking soundtrack. It’s like the WWE and Twisted Metal had a lovechild, and that child’s only ambition in life was to smash stuff.
- Tons of Personality. It was about halfway through the movie that I figured out why the Croods work so well as characters: they’re like The Addams Family, if The Addams Family were country bumpkins instead of macabre aristocrats. They have big, quirky personalities like The Addams Family, just unified around a different aesthetic. It makes for a nice ensemble comedy where everyone is unique, but they all pull in the same direction.
- Central Casting. The film pulls it off by having an absolutely stacked cast. Grug is tailor made for Nicolas Cage, utilizing his ability to go from sedate to radioactive at the drop of hat. Emma Stone‘s Eep is the heart of the film, and really infuses the character and movie with a ton of energy and passion. She also plays nicely off her love interest Guy, played by Ryan Reynolds with is usual mix of snark and wry observation. The big action finish is dominated by Cloris Leachman (in one her final roles) whose Gran just takes the insane energy of the film up to maximum. These standouts are surrounded by great supporting work by Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, and Kelly Marie Tran just to name a few.
- Weird and Wonderful. The visual imagery for The Croods 2 stands alone. It’s distinct, but still beautiful. The character models are unconventional on purpose, once again very reminiscent of The Addams Family. The creatures who populate this world are an imaginative riot, from punch monkeys to giant wolf spiders, to gorgeous flocks of enormous dragonflies that look like flying foliage. It’s like the animation team let their children dream up every crazy thing they could and then went about bringing it to life with dazzling color and fluid motion.
- Making Music. The Croods A New Age only has a few musical set pieces, but they’re bangers. The returning motif is the song “I Think I Love You,” which opens the film with a tremendously imaginative sequence and which ends the film with a rousing rendition of the classic Patridge Family staple re-recorded by Tenacious D. The final action sequence has a kick ass soundtrack from HAIM, a badass girl power rock anthem that was so good I watched the credits to hear it again in full. It’s then complimented with a nice collaboration between HAIM and Tenacious D which was again worthy of sitting through the credits just to hear.
How Good Is…The Croods A New Age?
Damn good. If the wall of text above didn’t succinctly convey my impression of the film, here it is: The Croods 2 is packed to the rafters with energy and a unique aesthetic that just blew me away. It’s so good I need to go out and watch the original; if it’s half a crazy and fun as A New Age, it’s going to be another great ride.