Movie Review: The Croods

Movie: The Croods (Kirk DeMicco, Chris Sanders, 2013)
Oscar Nominations: Best Animated Film (1 nomination total)

So there's a teen neanderthal girl named Eep who chafes under her father's restrictive rules (that, which unnecessarily harsh, likely do keep them alive as all their neighbors have been killed off). One day, she meets a teenage boy named Guy (who looks a bit more homo sapiens) who tells her the end of the world is coming and leaves her a shell to call him with -- oh, and he knows how to make fire. Sure enough, there's an earthquake and their cave is destroyed and thus begins the merry adventure to try to find a place that isn't going to be all blown to bits and eaten by lava. Along the way we get some personal growth, family togetherness, a large parrot-cat-like creature, a sloth with dramatic tendencies, some last-minute sacrifice, and a happy ending. Sorry if that spoiled it for you.

To be honest, I wasn't terribly a fan of this movie. Eep's the one who drags her family out and saves them, but as soon as she meets Guy, it kind of becomes the story of him and her father, Grug. The fact that the story recenters away from her, that I'm not sure it passes the Bechdel as a result (or if so, only barely) and that most of the humor is physical (and what isn't is kinda gender-role-tastic) means that I largely sat and stared at it the whole time rather than getting into it. It's not my kinda thing, but then I'm largely okay with not being the target audience.

On the one hand, the animation is gorgeous, or at least the backgrounds and animals are. The story leaves me flat, however, and I feel that the last leg of the film is kind of at sea, as though once the characters had reached their primary goal and it didn't solve their problems, and there's a nice sacrificial role, they couldn't let the sadness stand and had to invent tacked on solutions to get a nice happy ending. I have no problem with a happy ending, especially in an animated film, but forced is forced.

Honestly, in so far as the gender concerns go... that may be endemic to Dreamworks Animation. They tell boy-centered stories with aplomb. The girl-centered stories are a bit more hit or miss, with the hits being largely co-productions with Aardman (and even there, the girls are placed primarily as strong secondary characters). I think really just this film promoting Eep as the central character and following Brave (Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, 2011) and even Frozen (Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee, 2013) made me expect more from it than it was prepared to deliver. Currently at the bottom of my list for Best Animated Feature, and I'll be disappointed if it wins.


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