Directed by Joel Crawford.
Featuring the voice talents of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, Kelly Marie Tran, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Randy Thom, Cloris Leachman, Chris Sanders, and Tara Strong.
The prehistoric family the Croods are challenged by a rival family the Bettermans, who claim to be better and more evolved.
Stuck somewhere between expanding on dreams from the first film while also telling the same kind of story, The Croods: A New Age takes the search for Tomorrow and makes it the focal point of this sequel. In terms of aesthetics, this setting is the complete opposite of barren landscapes, brimming with cotton candy colors, various types of fruit, multiple waterfalls, and a real home. Essentially, Tomorrow is paradise.
First-time director Joel Crawford (previously working in the art department and doing his best to salvage a rough development process that saw the movie at one point canceled and then brought back into production, finally releasing seven years now following the first installment) imbues this dynamic with some clever riffs on modern-day life. Working with an all-star cast, Eep (Emma Stone) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds) are thrilled by the proposition of a home comprised of individual rooms allowing for actual privacy away from the still overbearing dad Grug (Nicolas Cage, once again making the most of his eccentric line readings that certainly fit animated features). They have also been contemplating setting off on their own adventures.
It’s safe to say that Grug’s fears of separation are going to kick in once again, which makes the proceedings slightly frustrating considering there are smart elements to The Croods: A New Age used for a few decent jokes. Take for example their dimwitted son Thunk (Clark Duke) who starts staring outside windows as if nature is television, increasingly becoming addicted to doing so and less engaged with his family. In that regard, it does give Grug’s concern of the family drifting apart some justification (everyone seems to be fascinated by something regarding the new environment except him). There’s a scene where he crashes through a wall to at least be able to sleep with his partner (a returning Catherine Keener), giving the impression that the story is commenting on the balance between privacy and togetherness.
There’s also the added complication of the Bettermans having already staked claim to the paradise and the home, but are nonetheless welcoming and inviting anyway due to their twist of fate connection to Guy. They could probably stand to have a more subtle surname (you can probably already guess there is going to be some familial warfare founded on intelligence levels), but are charmingly played by Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann (two veteran actors that are also often reliable voiceover performance). They also have a daughter named Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran) that they would like to set Guy up with romantically, teasing a love triangle that the writers never go too far down. If anything, their restraint in going that route is a critical decision that avoids tanking this story.
Scripted by a handful of names, The Croods: A New Age sees the initially opposing fathers working together to get Guy away from Eep, splintering off into a second-half that is pleasantly about female empowerment even if it does come out of nowhere. Let’s just say Gran (Cloris Leachman) has some surprises in store, as all of them find their own physical strength and identity. Both families are also going to have to come together to take on a mutual threat, as this paradise doesn’t necessarily belong to either of them.
With that said, The Croods: A New Age starts coasting off of action for its remaining running time and typically always looks visually dazzling doing so, but there’s also a disappointment factor that most of the attention-grabbing thoughts on privacy and family have been dropped. There’s plenty of chaos and imaginative creature designs and even one or two unexpected locales (an ice cave in particular sticks out as beautiful), but the second half feels strictly for children while also redoing aspects of the first movie. That’s not to say it’s all bad, as it is enjoyable watching the women be the ones to set aside their differences, get on the same page, and save the day. The action itself just feels uninspired, but accounting for what sounds like a disastrous production, is serviceable enough connecting together the plot beats that do work. It’s not so much a new age, but rather a retread that looks nice and at least attempts to be thoughtful.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]
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