Voices of:  Nicholas Cage   Emma Stone   Ryan Reynolds   Catherine Keener   Cloris Leachman


 The Croods are a family back in prehistoric times and at least some of them are trying to break out of the “caveman” mode.  The father Grug (Nicholas Cage) is the one most stuck, being fearful and wanting to stay in the cave where almost everything that happens is expected.  The trouble is, his teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) is CURIOUS, and refuses to stay put; she wants to see the world and explore new things.  The mother Ugga (Catherine Keener) is pretty much caught between them, and basically stays out of the way.  Comic relief is provided by Gran (Cloris Leachman), the brother Thunk (Clark Duke), and the baby Sandy (Randy Thorn), as well as “Belt” (Chris Sanders), who actually serves as a belt.  Gran is the feisty grandmother always daring and ready for an adventure, whether it’s sane or not.  Thunk actually doesn’t think much and is just about devoid of a brain, and Sandy is the fastest sprint during hunts and always gets its prey.  Belt belongs to another character, and has a unique way of communicating, which everyone seems to understand.  

 The story is a little weak, but basically it is about Eep defying her father at every turn as he tries to hold onto her, and her encountering Guy (Ryan Reynolds)—a guy her own age—on one of her forays.  He is more civilized, and is somewhat horrified with the family’s primitive behavior (hitting and bopping are their preferred strategies for dealing with any problem).  He knows how to make a fire (which the family thinks is the sun at first), and has learned that the world as they know it is coming to the end.  So they need to get somewhere that is safe quickly—not to a cave, as Grug thinks, but “toward the light.”  

 There are many dangers and near misses along the journey, and they get separated many times.  But through all this, they do become more civilized, better able to listen to one another, use their heads rather than their hands, and trust others enough to become friends.  I especially liked how Grug eventually made friends with the huge cat that was his enemy.  After initially being very competitive and dismissive of Guy, Grug begins to see that he is smart and someone to listen to, and Guy eventually becomes a part of the family.

 The actors’ voices are great at capturing the individual characters and bringing them to life.  They make the story work, but for me the standout is the animation and special effects.  Landscapes are colorful and beautifully sculpted, and the animated characters are appealing and seem almost squeezable like stuffed toys.  Much of the humor is slapstick, but I guess that goes with the territory, and many kids love it.

Grade:  B By Donna R. Copeland