The Croods: A New Age

After venturing out into the world beyond their cave, Grug (voice of Nicolas Cage) overhears Guy (voice of Ryan Reynolds) in their sleep ‘pile’ discussing forming a new pack with his daughter Eep (voice of Emma Stone),’ a ‘Tomorrow’ with flowers and butterflies and babbling brooks.  Intent on keeping his pack together, Grug thinks he’s found his answer when the Croods find a walled Utopia with all of Guy’s promises plus more food than they can eat.  But there’s a reason so much is growing in straight lines – this is the work of Phil (voice of Peter Dinklage) and Hope Betterman (voice of Leslie Mann) who believe they’re more evolved, friends of Guy’s late parents who’d like to see him with their own daughter Dawn (voice of Kelly Marie Tran) in “The Croods: A New Age.”

Laura's Review: B-

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark's" Kevin & Dan Hageman and "The Lego Ninjago Movie's" Paul Fisher & Bob Logan have written a sequel to the 2013 animation that could be seen as a metaphor for our current politically divided country along with its more obvious themes of togetherness vs. privacy, protective parents, bromance and girl power.  It’s difficult not to view Phil, slim and man-bunned, and Hope with her white streaked perm, both spa-sandaled, rock-necklaced and condescending, as liberal elites, and they are initially so unlikable, it takes a while to warm up to the film.  Thankfully the filmmakers haven’t fallen into a mean girls trap, Dawn so thrilled to meet another girl her own age she sees her as a friend, not a rival, and it is Dawn’s first trip beyond the wall that kicks the movie into gear.

While Grug proclaims ‘the pack is stronger together,’ Guy tells Eep that privacy is ‘only smelling the feet you want to smell,’ so when he reunites with the Bettermans, who have built separate sleep chambers in their elaborate tree house, he has refound his ‘tribe,’ reuniting with childhood friend Dawn as his sloth Belt Sash embraces her Sash.  Grug can’t get his head around sleeping alone, walking through the connecting wall to where Ugga (voice of Catherine Keener) enjoys a hammock.  Thunk (voice of Clark Duke) is captivated by the concept of ‘window,’ sitting in front of it all day like a Stone Age couch potato.

Intrigued by Eep, Dawn jumps aboard Chunky the Death Cat for a leap over the wall dad built to protect her and enjoys her first taste of real freedom, including the bee sting which gives her her first scar as well as intoxication from the venom.  Meanwhile Phil invites Grug into his man cave to enjoy a sauna and the heat goes to Grug’s head.  Phil takes advantage, planting the idea that the Croods will leave Guy behind and move on.  When Grug returns to Ugga with his own man bun and spa sandals, Ugga’s tirade about how stupid the Bettermans think they are set Grug off too.  With everyone mad at everyone else, Eep and Guy’s romance gets caught in the crosshairs.  Then Grug defies Phil’s rule about not eating the bananas and the repercussions find him, Phil and Guy all in need of rescue.  In steps Gran (voice of Cloris Leachman), former Thunder Sister and newly declared ‘Queen of Wimmins,’ to light a fire among the women who will save the day.

Director Joel Crawford (TV's 'Trolls Holiday') detours around a couple of boggy spots with lots of great little sight gags sprinkled throughout the film.  And while we can see where Phil’s banana rule is heading from the get-go, the writers inject allegorical subtext about ethical business practices on top of a bait and switch to keep things interesting.  The animation explodes with color and all manner of bizarre creatures including punch monkeys, wolf spiders and land sharks.

The returning vocal cast is aces, Dinklage, Mann and Tran all welcome additions, although it is hard to warm up to Dinklage’s character as written, especially as a buddy for Grug.

Robin's Review: B

When we last met the Crood family, they survived great danger and found their way to a new life direction. Now, they face an even greater danger – the Bettermans, a family more evolved and prosperous. The new neighbors are also, it turns out, very selfish and want to be in charge of “The Croods: A New Age.”

It has been seven years (mostly old, normal, pre-covid years) since we last saw our favorite family of prehistoric cave people. Now, with the Bettermans entering their lives, they face a more daunting threat than even a hungry saber-tooth tiger – progress.

I looked back at my review for “The Croods (2013)” – I gave it a happy B+ - and the original story came rushing back to my mind. That lovable caveman yarn was given 3D treatment on the big theater screen and, I said then, is a true movie for all ages. The sequel, like man, has evolved and brings in a trio (plus) of new characters - Phil (Peter Dinklage). Hope (Leslie Mann) and Dawn (Kellie Marie Tran) Betterman.

The Croods, with Guy (Ryan Reynolds) still in tow, are on their “forever tomorrow” search for a new home. For dad, Grug (Nicolas Cage), it is also a time of danger to his “pack” when he hears daughter, Eep (Emma Stone) and Guy talk about setting off on their own. Then, the intrepid dad discovers a mysterious wall.

Grug leads the family there and, once they breach the barrier, they find a lush land full of babbling brooks, colorful flora and lots of food. As they begin to binge on the plenty, the entire pack is caught in a net. This is their introduction to the more evolved Bettermans and, for the Croods, it is a mixed blessing. They are allowed to eat all they want with one exception: bananas (which happen to be Grug’s most favorite food – this plays out later).

What transpires, until the plot turns to a more routine and bombastic climax, is a clash of cultures and mores. Phil, and by extension Hope, lords his superior intelligence and problem-solving ability over his guests and Grug is offended. But, his host is much smarter and Phil figures out a way to separate the Croods from Guy, whose deceased parents were their best friends. So, add societal conflict to the evolutionary differences of the Croods and the Bettermans.

There is a lot going on in “A New Age” and much of it parallels with conflicts and struggles we are now facing in our world – like survival. The filmmakers, led by helming newcomer Joel Crawford, take our minds off of our woes, even just for a little bit, with another for-all-ages family movie at a time we need it.