Although it's early to start handing out awards for best animated, consider THE CROODS as a strong candidate.
As we mentioned in our year-end article, 2012 brought us several terrific films throughout the year, including several; animated ones that made it to this year's Oscars. Bolstered by long lines and positive reviews, animated films are enjoying a resurgence among filmgoers. This year starts off with Dreamworks' THE CROODS, an impressive adventure about cavemen and the coming of the New World.
Eep Crood (voiced by Emma Stone) is a prehistoric cavewoman who wants more than the dull and defensive existence she and her family have been provided by her father Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage). According to him, cave people should hide from larger animals, stay indoors at night, and generally be prepared to live in fear for the majority of their lives. Grug doesn't like 'new things' as he calls it, because it's led to the deaths of several neighbors; he's more content to stay locked up in his cave, much to the disappointment of the adventurous but bored Eep. Grug's wife Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener), her mother (Cloris Leachman), daughter Sandy, and son Thunk (Clark Duke) are mesmerized as Grugg tells one cautionary tale after another, ending each story with a red splat from his hand signifying the death of yet another troublemaker. But when the newcomer Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) arrives carrying the new discovery fire with him - as well as omen of destruction - Eep and her family are forced to set out across the newly-formed continent, while their old one is swept away during a cataclysmic event. Guy is convinced that a place he calls 'tomorrow' is just a tall mountain away, and the enamored Eep is more than willing to follow. But danger and hilarious antics are no doubt to follow as the Croods's loyalties to Grugg will be tested from everything to using fire, to wearing Guy's new invention of shoes, to working with their larger animal enemies to survive the impending shift of the land masses.
Co-written and co-directed by Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch) and Kirk DeMicco, The Croods displays familiar themes of family and duty from Pixar's Brave but adds more humor, warmth, and action to things. The story has plenty of laugh-out-loud one-liners, but it's superseded by a tone made for a more mature teen audience. The idea of a family being forced from their home is nothing new (see: Ice Age) but when it's utterly smashed from an earthquake as it's done here, with hand paintings shattered and their 'neighborhood' dismantled, we see this new tone emerge from Dreamworks that's also appealing for adults but could be tough on smaller kids. Our voice actors do much to bring depth to their characters, rather than simply reading from a script with no apparent idea of the scene they're actually doing (see Wreck it Ralph). Reynolds and Cage lead the way here - their banter is funny and perfectly balanced as Grugg fights the coming changes which represent nothing less than an end to his perfectly-ordered world.
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Composer Alan Silvestri (The Avengers) creates a beautiful score that mixes Avengers-style marches with more tender pieces that I believe takes his work to a new level. Like Silvestri, Dreamworks has improved their animation immensely with The Croods, creating a sumptuous environment that looks better than Oz The Great and Powerful and is frankly more inventive than Jack the Giant Slayer. It looked fabulous in 3D, with hair, clothing, and the physical environment almost resembling reality. Although I expect it to be an amazing experience at home, don't wait.
The Croods underwent many production delays in 2012 before finally arriving to theaters this month. In some ways that's a blessing, as it might be have been quickly forgotten with terrific fare like Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie, Rise of the Guardians, and Ice Age had it been released last year. The Croods is a terrific early entry, further proving that Disney and Pixar have legitimate competition close on their heels. That's good for fans of animation, as this one will reward you with a strong script and stunning animation. The Croods is rated PG and has a runtime of 98 minutes.
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