Review: A maximalist family romp in ‘The Croods: A New Age”

Remember “The Croods”? It’s understandable if the answer is a “sure, kinda?” The 2013 animated film about a cave family in a fictional prehistoric era featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Cloris Leachman was pretty enjoyable, made a decent amount of money and even got an Oscar nomination. Nothing earth shattering, but it wasn’t surprising that DreamWorks Animation decided to greenlight a sequel.

That it took seven years to do so is, but “ The Croods: A New Age ” got caught up in a crazy cycle of corporate acquisitions, director changes and shifting priorities. It was even flat out canceled at one point. And this all happened pre-pandemic. That it still eventually got made with all of the original cast is a downright miracle.

But it’s certainly a lot of drama for a silly animated sequel that’s neither terribly special nor all bad. Directing duties transferred from Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco to first-time director Joel Crawford.This time around we meet up with the Crood clan Grug (Cage), Ugga (Catherine Keener), Gran (Leachman), Eep (Stone) and her boyfriend Guy (Reynolds) on the search for a new place to live, somewhere they dreamily refer to as “Tomorrow.”

And they do stumble upon a “Tomorrow” of sorts: A walled-in community with farming, tools and comforts, things that are wholly foreign to the rag-tag survivalist cave family. All of this progress is thanks to the not-so-subtly named Bettermans, Hope (Leslie Mann), Phil (Peter Dinklage) and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran).

The Bettermans look, to put it bluntly, like modern urban hipsters on vacation in Indonesia. With mom in a tasteful shift dress and turquoise jewelry and dad with a man-bun, sandals and an open shirt, it seemed like we were about to discover that this isn’t prehistoric times at all and maybe the Croods had been living in some deranged social experiment to mimic the conditions of primitive peoples. Don’t worry, they aren’t. It’s simply that this fantastical prehistoric society has gotten even more cartoonish and over-the-top.

These two families do not mesh together particularly well, with one valuing privacy, tidiness and progress and the other being, well, crude. You can already guess the misunderstandings, the hurt feelings and where it all eventually ends up and it’s a journey with a good heart. Some kids might even take some comfort in relating more to one family or another, or, as Dawn discovers, wanting what the other family has.

There is some clear imagination and talent behind this world, although the aesthetic won’t be for everyone. The Betterman’s home is colorful and imaginative and will no doubt be a visual feast for youngsters, especially the gadget-curious and treehouse fans. And there are some genuinely funny moments, and a bit with “punch monkeys” that will likely produce giggles and then, depending, a follow-up conversation about punching.

It might not be as novel as the first, but it’s essentially harmless, if a little chaotic, fun for kids and doesn’t need to be anything more than that.

“The Croods: A New Age,” a Universal Pictures release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for “peril, action and rude humor.” Running time: 95 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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MPAA Definition of PG: Parental guidance suggested.

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Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr

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