On the whole, The Croods: A New Age is good fun, even if it's a lesser sequel, but it isn't a must-see-in-a-theater event.

Film Review: The Croods: A New Age

Film Reviews

The Croods: A New Age
Director: Joel Crawford

DreamWorks Animation
In Theaters: 11.25

While there are certainly a number of things that can be said against the year 2020—including its effect on the film industry—you can’t say that it’s been a bad year for animation. We’ve already had one great Pixar film, and we have another with even stronger buzz coming. Netflix has been prolific and made a big splash in the medium, releasing top-quality feature films and a few excellent series, and even AppleTV+ has entered the game with the breathtaking Wolfwalkers. 

Perhaps the only victim of this embarrassment of riches is Universal and DreamWorks’ new release, The Croods: A New Age. In another year, it might have been more of a standout, and it’s not bad (especially for a sequel). But it’s not going to be much of a contender for best animated feature.

The story of The Croods: A New Age picks up shortly after the events of the first film with the prehistoric family in search of a safer place to call home. When they discover an idyllic, walled-in paradise that meets all their needs, they think their problems are solved … except for one thing: another family, the Bettermans, already lives there.

The Bettermans are a bit more evolved than the Croods, with their elaborate treehouse, amazing inventions and irrigated acres of fresh produce. They also have a beautiful daughter, Dawn (voiced by the lovable Kelly Marie Tran, (Star Wars: The Last Jedi)), who just might prove to be competition for Eep (Emma Stone) for the attention of her boyfriend, Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Meanwhile, Grug (still delightfully played by Nicolas Cage, the only leading man whose face looks more realistic when he’s playing a CGI caveman), is less than thrilled about the way the Bettermans make him feel inadequate as a provider and protector, and downright hostile about their mysterious “don’t eat the bananas” rule.

The animation is eye-popping with the newfound utopia allowing for a much more colorful look than the first Croods, though there’s plenty of room to question as to whether it gets a bit too colorful at times. But director Joel Crawford, whose only previous directing credit is the short Trolls Holiday, has trouble matching the high standards of Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, the veterans who wrote and directed the original film, lacking their flair for action and flawless sense of timing. 

The voice cast is great, with Tran being the standout, and she and Stone play very well off of each other and Reynolds. Cage still throws himself into it with gusto—I really can’t say enough about how much I love him in this role—but Grug doesn’t have nearly as strong a character arc this time around, and the same is true of Stone’s Eep. These two characters were the heart of the story of the first film, but this time, the movie has trouble deciding who exactly—if anyone—is the protagonist. Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann do some nice work as Phil and Hope Bettermans, respectively, but Dinklage deserves some better dialogue.  The script feels a lot more like it’s been assembled by committee this time around, though it does have some amusing moments. Clark Duke gets some laughs as Thunk, the Crood’s son, but his role is all based around one running gag that grows pretty thin. Cloris Leachman, as Gran, does get a surprising amount of emphasis in this one, which may be the most welcome surprise.

The music soundtrack is very enjoyable, from the score by Mark Mothersbaugh to the repeated use of a personal favorite pop song, “I Think I Love You,” including a killer new rock cover by Tenacious D.

On the whole, The Croods: A New Age is good fun, even if it’s a lesser sequel. The kids will enjoy it, but the fact is that even in the best of times, this is hardly a must-see-in-a-theater event. If any real money is to be made here, it won’t be until the digital release, which is when I would suggest seeing it if you’re a fan. –Patrick Gibbs