‘The Croods: A New Age’ review: Overstuffed sequel has heart


Croo-oods! Meet the Croo-oods! They’re a modern Pleistocene era family!

That was the gist of 2013’s “The Croods,” a DreamWorks animated film about a prehistoric household, that dug up the formula once embraced by 1960s shows such as “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons” and “The Munsters” — “they’re a family just like yours and mine, but with a twist!”

The OK first movie, a whopping seven years ago, sought to answer the age-old question: “What if cavemen spoke English?”

The fun sequel, with a smidge more ambition than its predecessor, tacks on, “What if cavemen met non-cavemen?”

Answer: hijinks, and lots of ’em.

This time around, the Croods, voiced by the strange ensemble of Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke, leave home and encounter the Bettermans, a posh and more recognizably human clan.

The Bettermans (Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran) are a kind of hippie Swiss Family Robinson. They live in a treehouse in the middle of a walled-off Garden of Eden where they farm crops and keep groovy. Did flip-flops exist 12,000 years ago? I studied theater in college — who am I to say?

The two families’ country-mouse-city-mouse vibe adds some “Odd Couple”-esque complications. Crood dad Grug (Cage, who’s got a creepy voice for a kids movie) prefers a more rugged lifestyle, whereas Betterman pop Phil (Dinklage) likes to chillax in a steamy sauna. Eep (Stone) teaches shy Hope Betterman (Mann) the thrills of joyriding . . . on a saber-toothed tiger. And Guy (Ryan Reynolds), the abandoned human from the original film, thinks he’s found a new home with his own kind, where he fits in better.

Setting “A New Age” in a whimsical garden adds a pop of neon color to director Joel Crawford’s flick, even if its vibrancy sometimes verges on “Rainbow Brite.” Especially during the tiger ride, when the girls are wowed by giant orange-pink insects that resemble leaves, the movie glistens.

The film is overstuffed with comedy material, though. There’s a time-period-appropriate gag for everything — the TV is just a hole in the wall that they watch birds through — and the jokes are nonstop. The best moments of animated films are often the most serene.

But as the CGI Wars between DreamWorks and Pixar go, I’ve sided with DreamWorks over the years because their wonderful movies such as “Shrek,” “How To Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda” prize feelings over brains. Sure they’re smart, but, unlike much of Pixar, not card-carrying Mensa members. “The Croods” is a B-side for them in terms of creativity, however its heart is definitely not made of stone.