Kids spend an inordinate amount of time watching stories that unfold in prehistoric times.
Why is that? If they aren’t trudging through yet another Ice Age movie, they’re gearing up for the potential release of a 3D Jurassic Park -- a classic we absolutely plan to cover in the weekly When Can I Watch column soon enough. This trend even extended to our own childhoods. If you’re my age (39), you grew up on Captain Caveman, and The Flintstones was a prime-time staple on ABC’s programming schedule. Hollywood digs animated dinosaurs, and the stories that take place during the Cretaceous era.
The Croods is the latest added to a long line of cartoon cavemen comedies, but it has a few deeper themes – and a handful of 3D threats – that bear discussion as you seek an alternative to Oz the Great and Powerful. So, let’s emerge from our caves, seek refuge on higher ground, and figure out when you can watch The Croods with your kids.
Green Lights: “We do this as a family, and never not be afraid!”
My boys, who are ages five and nine, liked The Croods more than I did, which tells you most of what parents might need to know. Unlike rival Pixar features, Croods doesn’t necessarily compel me to revisit it and reconnect with the waves of emotions that spin out of the central story. But there’s plenty of action on-screen, and the movie – while repetitive – moves along at a brisk and colorful clip.
The story follows a cavemen clan named the Croods, who live under the semi-oppressive thumb of the father, Grug (Nicholas Cage). He’d love it if the family could stay in their cave 24/7, at least they’d be safe, but when a global force threatens to swallow their patch of land, the Croods must move on, accompanied by a hippie tour guide (Ryan Reynolds) who has a crush on Grug’s daughter, Eep (Emma Stone).
That synopsis right there taps into the various subjects Croods invites families to explore. Fathers and daughters will get more than a few laughs at Grug’s paternal need to protect his children, and kids in the audience will recognize Eep’s inherent need to rebel. Eep actually continues an impressive streak of strong feminine characters in digital animation, from Merida in Brave to Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) in the upcoming Epic.
But there’s plenty – and I do mean plenty – in Croods for boys, as well. Codirectors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders make excellent use of their 3D to soup up the numerous action sequences in Croods. An early morning hunt for eggs that opens the film plays like the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, with a delicate “meal” being passed from family member to family member as the animation cameras bend and glide. Giant ears of corn are turned into rocket ships. The Croods, while on their journey to safety, encounter numerous animalistic threats, though the clan’s never really in harm’s way. (The movie’s PG for “some scary action,” and that about sums it up.)
The Croods also switches gears by becoming a borderline surreal jaunt through some Seussian territories when the family leaves its “nest” and treks through an unknown land filled with never-before-seen creatures. Your kids will enjoy meeting each new vibrant, fuzzy and odd beast… even if moms and dads will be scratching their heads wondering what, exactly, is going on. Few of the creatures will be able to top Belt, the adorable sloth who accompanies Reynold’s character, Guy. His three-note song (you’ll know it) was a hit with my kids, and turned Belt into an instant crowd-pleaser.
The absence of anything really questionable means that The Croods doesn’t need a Red Flags section.
Take your kids, and talk to them about some of the legitimate concerns Grug was facing. Parents always want to protect their children from harm, no matter how old our kids have become. Moms and dads will connect with Grug’s struggle to look “cool” in his daughter’s eyes when threatened by a new Guy – literally. And the youngest in your family (both boys and girls) will be entertained by the sustained levels of energy mustered by the Croods animators. I found it a bit repetitive, but my sons grooved on each new action sequence, which seemed to top the previous in terms of energy and ingenuity.
The Croods is an excellent option if you've already ventured to Oz. It’s appropriate for kids age five and up, and should do very well with families this weekend. As always, if you decide to go, drop me a line and let me know how it went.
If you’d like to read previous entries in the "When Can I Watch That with My Kids?" series, click right here. Some of the films covered: Star Wars, Back to the Future, The Goonies, Hugo, The Princess Bride, The Monster Squad and Elf, to name just a few.