Rating 2 1/2
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Chris Sanders, Kirk De Micco
Running time: 98 minutes
In Plato's allegory of the cave, a group of prisoners have their necks and legs fettered so they can only look forward. In front is a wall and behind, at some distance, is a fire. As objects pass in front of the fire they cast a shadow on the wall.
The prisoners think the shadows are the real thing, ignorant of the reality behind them. It is only when the prisoners turn around that they can distinguish the shadows from the ideals. Plato would not have liked The Croods.
The Croods is a children's film that will please younger audiences, but will leave older ones with little to latch onto other than a few moments of wit. It sacrifices a strong story and intriguing characters for beautiful animation and childish slapstick humor. The film is merely a compilation of past animated films glued together. I don't just want to see the shadows; I want the real thing!
In a prehistoric world abounding with danger, the Croods are a family of evolving cave people. Eep (Emma Stone), a teenage daughter, is confined to the cave, which she finds a drag. They only leave the cave when necessary, and the only form of entertainment is her father Grug's (Nicholas Cage's) stories, which tell of people who leave the cave against their father's will and "die!"
She tires of the confinement. It is only when she leaves the cave that she discovers there is a whole world lying directly behind her.
She encounters Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a more evolved "human" who has discovered fire.
As Pangea (a super continent) begins breaking apart, Grug's old survival tactics become obsolete. His family and Guy must evolve out of the cave to their new environment.
Does any of this sound familiar? I see a little bit of Ice Age: Continental Drift and a lot of Brave. Moreover, not only is some of its narrative taken from other films, but many of its situations are, as well. In the climactic scene, all the characters believe someone to be dead but actually he's hidden behind an object.
Screenwriters of children's films have a misunderstanding: a younger audience is not an excuse to pen a less compelling story. The majority of this film's running time is spent with cheap jokes that may please younger audiences, while their parents yell at the screen "This is the same joke you made five minutes ago!" The jokes may have been humorous the first time, but by the end they become tiresome. How many times does Grug reference his dislike of his mother-in-law?
But don't fret; there is a redeeming factor: this film is absolutely gorgeous. The blend of vibrant colours washes over your eyes and stirs your mind into a feeling of adventure. It is reminiscent of the hyper speed sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
With the exception of films like Wall-E, the majority of animated children's films continue to try to entertain only the kids. Don't call me Scrooge! I like it when the kids are entertained, but what the creators don't realize is, those kids can't get to the theatre on their own. Their parents are dragged into the theatre with them. And yet the filmmakers are only ambitious enough to entertain half the audience.
Hopefully this one gets naturally selected at the box office, but I have a feeling most people will settle for the shadows on the wall.
. Joshua Cabrita is a Grade 11 student at Riverside Secondary. He is a founding member of the school's movie club, where students meet to view old classics and discuss their meaning and significance. One of his audacious dreams is to become a full-time professional film critic.