The Croods inhabit a world of wacky evolution, where birds are covered in turtles shells and land whales munch on ferns, background events which weigh on this primitive family as progress washes over them. Continental drift scrunches them together without the safety of a relied on, damp (and defensive) cave, turning the family into reactionary creatures.
They’re led by Guy (Ryan Reynolds), one up on their human evolutionary scale and quick thinking discoverer of fire. His approach buckles trends of fear and defensive circles in exchange for brain use, something the Croods were never gifted with. Pushed aside is Grug (Nicolas Cage), father figure and defender, now finding himself threatened as his instinctual, frightful ways are trampled upon. His curious daughter Eep (Emma Stone) thrills at the potential of danger, and finds herself attracted to Guy as this family unit begins losing their footing in nature.
Croods often overreaches, Grug persistent and repetitiously mindful of wildlife, or fearful of new. Beaten dead horse, meet The Croods. Grug is defined only by his parental methods, and Nicolas Cage is contained within animated walls. His designation as a flustering character, a bother to Eep, only settles in the predictable third act swerve in order to give audiences an excitable action lift.
But, that is coming down hard on Croods, an ultimately harmless and inviting animated run in Dreamworks now weary formula. Their films remain marketable first, tiered voice talent designed to be recognized, which builds fewer identities and rather notable names splattered across trailers. Nicolas Cage is not so much Grub as he is Cage, Emma Stone is Emma Stone, and Ryan Reynolds… he still has the gift of one-line quips.
Saving graces rest on designs, both from awkward shaping of Crood cavemen frames to intrinsically alluring plant and animal life. Familiarity adds an array of adorableness even to carnivores, and stunningly rendered plants are dazzling. Coming from a world of dusty rocks, the Croods brush with greens, saturated blue skies, and impossibly colored monsters. This world finds itself absorbingly designed away from its central rebellion narrative.
In many ways, Croods finds itself battling side characters who attract more attention than the central dynamic between Eep and Grub. Whimsy comes from Grandma Crood (Cloris Leachman) or a misshapen marsupial, Belt (voiced by co-director Chris Sanders). Personalities infect beaked dogs or one-off gag squirrels, something the father/daughter angle rarely reaches for.
Messaging is certainly unique, a story wherein teenage rebellion saves the entire family. Disobedience seems more of a draw than being ones self, ideals destined to be appreciated by parents worldwide as their little ones enter that phase. Maybe “harmless” doesn’t suit The Croods after all. No matter what kids take away, at least they’ll have fun with this prehistory world, and tagged along parents should produce smiles too.
Locked to the interior of a cave for the first act, black levels rush in to establish their cautious dominance, and maintain that holding pattern for the rest of the film. Shadow detail preservation is outstanding, adding dimensionality to somewhat bulbous character designs. Fades into darkness are smooth and sure, carefully employed to aid transition.
Croods begins bright, if ultimately plain. Nestled between rocky crevices are earth tones and hefty with expected browns. It makes the reveal of their new home near a paradise of color, fitted with absolutist primaries and generous splendor. Saturation is remarkable, and designs lush, built for visual intensity.
Video qualities are ultimately quantified by source animation, boosted by strikingly sharp texture work on skin, fur, or surfaces. Fox’s Blu-ray encoding is perfect, capturing coarse, sun dried Croods in flawless fidelity. Facial definition is superlative, while close-ups of furry mammals are engulfed in individual hairs. They flow and move without hints of aliasing or stifling artifacts. Raw resolution feels visible everywhere, and there are no instances of simulated focal tricks to dampen natural sharpness.
Once into its domain of nature’s palettes, Croods is visually arresting. Animation quality now comes back to source material, and expanding technique displayed in Croods shows how far this medium has come since Toy Story. Despite being evolutionary misfits, the title family is covered with notably real traits, which translate into HD without hiccups. It’s animated. It’s perfection.
Serious LFE juice runs through Croods, assuming one can associate bass with juice. Imagine truck fulls simultaneously smashing onto the ground in front of you, which would be similar to Croods’ end-of-the-world output. Splices in rock formations cause earthquakes which hit deep into the low-end, a satisfying shock to the system which gradually ups its presence from a trickle to full on assault. Volcanic eruptions and monstrous footsteps equal these streams of tightly controlled bass.
Seven channels play heed to positioning, especially well divided stereos. Rear channels push ambient sounds, and deliver an especially sharp cave interior at 56:30, wherein voices swell to fill in the soundstage. Music is equally vibrant and fulfilling, with additional heft added to the surprising LFE channel. Kids movies tend to soften themselves, but Croods is a blitz of audio greatness.
Want to involve kids in the movie making process, or the benefits of Blu-ray bonuses? Then keep this disc away from them. An interactive look at each creature used in the film is blasé, and Belts Cave Journal is an entirely skippable series of side stories. Four deleted scenes are of limited interest (including an introduction), and kids may find a lesson on how to draw Croods characters fun, if long-winded at 35-minutes. Some trailers, and Fox cuts this one short.
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