Susan Granger’s review of “The Croods” (20th Century-Fox/DreamWorks)
There’s obviously such a thirst for children’s entertainment that this mediocre computer-animated 3D comedy about Stone Age cavemen is proving a mammoth box-office draw.
Life isn’t easy for over-protective, prehistoric patriarch Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage). He gets crushed by boulders, hit by lightning and screamed at by his mother-in-law Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman). Convinced that darkness brings death, he awakens every morning proclaiming, “I’m still alive!” acknowledging that there’s a perilous world outside the protection of the family’s cave. No wonder Grug’s cautious credo is “Never not be afraid!”
But when the tectonic plates shift, causing earthquakes and lava flows, his Neanderthal family is in grave danger. That terrifies everyone except Grug’s rebellious, titan-haired teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone), who is curious about what exists in the mysterious beyond, particularly when this she meets an inventive dude named Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a more advanced humanoid who not only has mastered the art of making a fire but also wears shoes and has a pet sloth.
“The world is ending,” Guy tells her. “Come with me.” “I can’t,” Eep says.
But a landslide soon reduces their cave to rubble. So spunky Eep, her frightened mother Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), doltish brother Thunk (voice by Clark Duke), belligerent baby sister Sandy (Randy Thom) and tart-tongued Gran convince reluctant Grug to venture forth with Guy as nomads into the unknown.
Lifting liberally from the concept of “The Flintstones” and the plot of “Ice Age,” the stereotypical, formulaic script is credited to co-directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders (“How to Train Your Dragon,” “Lilo & Stitch”), who conceived the idea back in 2005 under the catchier title “Crood Awakening.”
Visually, DreamWorks digital animation is fast-moving and imaginative, filled with fantasy creatures like canine-crocodiles, flying turtles, tiny piranha-birds, spotted mastodons, lime-tinted saber-toothed housecats and walking whales.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Croods” is an energetic, slapstick 6, aimed at indiscriminating youngsters who will want to buy lots of Crood toys.