Sunday 14 April 2013

Damien Reviews The Croods

By Damien.

The Croods is a very good film... sort of

The latest DreamWorks Animation effort, while not the best the studio has given us in the last few years, is still a very solid movie. And this should not be a surprise, as it was co-directed by Chris Sanders, one of the men responsible for what is arguably the best DreamWorks Animation film to date: How to Train Your Dragon.
Still, as I stated before, The Croods come with flaws. Some big, some minor. As always when it comes to reviews, what you will read here is only subjective, but I will try my best to explain what I think the issues and the strengths of The Croods are.

The story, as the title suggests, focuses on a family of cavemen that goes by the name of Crood. An interesting point needs to be addressed here: The title of the movie refers as the whole family, but as you can imagine, not all members of the family receive equal treatment. Some are really funny side characters (Gran, Thunk and Sandy). But I thought the mother, Ugga, wasn't very well established and in fact almost disappeared from the film at times. For most of the movie, she's just there.
And then there's the main character debate. The film's beginning seems to suggest it's Eep, the curious daughter. She's the one who introduces us to the family, and why they live in a cave. She explains her world's rules and teases the events to come, in a voice-over sequence; a prologue that is very reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon, where Hiccup was the one who introduced us to his world. Well, the thing is, Hiccup was the protagonist of his movie, whereas Eep is not.
It's not Guy either - although he comes closer than Eep, and is often the one that makes the story moves forward.
The main character here is Grug, the over-protective and strong father. He's the one who goes through an emotional journey, and sees things differently in the end. He should be the one that introduces us to his family, it should be through him that we see the world he's living in. Just like Marlin in Finding Nemo (another misleading title, and a similar theme). I can only wonder why the filmmakers chose to go the other way... But the result of it is the following: it's not as easy to relate to the main character as it should be.

There's one thing, on the other hand, that is handed very well in the story: the theme. The Croods deals with fear of the new, and how it can metaphorically destroy you. I thought the writing on that was superb, and led to a touching resolution.
The things that did bother me on that matter, were the moments when the style of the story broke from the sincere and deep vibes, and went into the funny, borderline absurd, comedy genre. I felt it wasn't needed. And those weren't the funniest bits of the film anyway, since it seemed a little out of place.
In a similar fashion, it's hard to really fear for the life of the characters when one can survive multiple lightning strikes and falls that would normally kill you. To me, that ruins the believability of the world, and it's a shame. You can't feel danger if you know (or think) the characters will be okay no matter what happens to them.

But now we get to the part of the movie that really is awesome. No nit-picking on this. It's the look of it.
Directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders went all the way on that, and offer us some absolutely wonderful visuals. The sets are crazy, imaginative and full of ideas - as is the whole movie, really.The character designs are bold. But the thing that really impressed me the most was the look of the creatures: vibrant, full of colours, fun... You can use all the superlatives you know, it still won't describe how well they are designed.
If you need one reason to see The Croods, that's the main one.
In a more general way, the two directors did a very solid job throughout.

To recap, I will say that despite issues with story and defining its genre, The Croods is another good film from DreamWorks Animation. Not great. Not even very good. It will probably not be this year's best animated film, but it still delivers a satisfying, funny and gorgeous-looking tale.

Check out William's review of The Croods here.

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