“The Croods: A New Age” stars Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran. Released on November 25, 2020, the film has the Croods encountering a new family.
The film featured the directorial debut of Joel Crawford, and it is a sequel to the 2013 film “The Croods”. After testing the waters with the simultaneous theater/PVOD release of “Trolls World Tour”, DreamWorks Animation (along with Universal Pictures) went back to the theatrical-only basis with another follow-up to one of their original properties. One that we didn’t expect to come out so soon, and yes, I know that this is long overdue. I had to make sure I have enough money and time to check it out for myself. Brief history lesson here: “The Croods” came out in March 2013 and became a critical and financial hit, resulting in it spawning a franchise that consists of an animated prequel series on Netflix and a sequel that has been in development for seven years. With COVID-19 still swarming around, the studio thought that now was a good time to release the film in theaters for the whole family to enjoy, because Disney wasn’t going to take that risk just yet. I wasn’t expecting “The Croods” to get a sequel, to be honest. I thought the film’s ending was good enough for it to be a “one and done” type of thing. Plus, I thought it was an endearing animated adventure. It’s not one of my favorite films from DreamWorks Animation, but it had enough moments for me to give it a “seal of approval”. However, it did make sense for the studio to release the sequel because Cage is becoming quite successful with his recent animated roles throughout the last couple of years, and Ryan Reynolds has gotten back into the spotlight thanks to his involvement with the “Deadpool” franchise. But is it a necessary follow-up? That’s the big question. Let’s travel back to the stone age and find out.
Taking place after the events of the first film, the story once again follows the caveman family known as The Croods, which consists of father Grug (Cage), daughter Eep (Stone), mother Ugga (Keener), son Thunk (Duke), Gran (Leachman), and their younger daughter Sandy (Kailey Crawford). The Croods, along with Eep’s boyfriend Guy (Reynolds), are still searching for a place they can call home in this vibrant, yet dangerous, world. They later come across a new family known as the Bettermans, who appeared to be more evolved than the Croods and have a personal history with Guy. I guess that explains why they’re called the “Bettermans”…because they think they’re better than everyone else. This newly-evolved family consists of Phil Betterman (Dinklage), Hope Betterman (Mann), and their daughter Dawn Betterman (Tran), who Eep befriends. Of course, they didn’t grow fond of one another right away because of their differences as well as the Bettermans’ attempt to get Guy to stay with them. When their feud resulted in them landing in hot water, the Croods and the Bettermans will have to work together to save themselves from extinction. The first “Croods” film was a fun and heartwarming adventure that teaches its viewers about the importance of not allowing fear to dictate how we should live our lives. In “A New Age”, it teaches kids the importance of appreciating people’s differences, which in my eyes, couldn’t have come at a better time. People have been wasting their energy treating others like garbage because of how different they are, whether it’s based on their skin color or their culture or even their beliefs, and to me, it brings me nothing but disgust. The film displayed the fact that we can all learn to live together, no matter how discrete we are from one another, and I applaud DreamWorks Animation for representing this message in a world full of prehistoric cave people and wild distinct creatures. However, that doesn’t mean that it fits perfectly with the film’s storytelling as well. While it does have its share of charm and vibrancy in its environments and the characters, the story didn’t evolve well enough to keep up with its splendor as it used the formula that worked in its predecessor as an excuse for storytelling and nothing else. If you’ve seen “The Croods” a bunch of times, you might have noticed some similar elements from the original that were presented here in the sequel, such as the stone-age versions of modern-day traditions and the “overprotective parent” scenario. Even though those elements worked fairly well here in terms of the humor, they often came off as formulaic, derivative, and sometimes obnoxious. It also didn’t help that the plot was obviously straightforward to a fault with a few rushed moments that almost took me out of its gorgeous sceneries. It’s not that I hate the story at all. It’s bearable and goofy enough for me and the parents to sit through. It’s the fact that it’s so used to its predecessor’s formula that it lost track of the narrative balance that made the first film a hit in my opinion. In other words, I thought the story in the first film was a bit better. There were a couple of things that kept this sequel from going extinct, and those were the voice cast and the animation. The main cast reprised their respective roles from the first film, ranging from Cage to Reynolds, and they delivered some of their funniest and charming vocal performances in their careers. Thanks to his commitment towards the role of Grug, Nicolas Cage once again shows further proof that he’s still the ruler of all things crazy and should still share the lunacy throne with another lovable goofball Jim Carrey. The film also introduced some new faces in the form of the Bettermans, who are voiced by Dinklage, Mann and Kelly Marie Tran from the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy. I thought Dinklage and Mann did pretty well in their roles as Phil and Hope respectively, but the real show-stopper, in my honest opinion, was Tran, who brought plenty of energy and charisma into her character Dawn. She’s probably one of the best parts of the film because of her personality and her humorous moments. As for the Bettermans themselves, they’re fine enough to be supporting characters. Not great, but fine nonetheless. Another element that stood out for me was the animation, which looked unsurprisingly stunning. From its colorful settings to its unique creature designs, the animation once again showcases the studio’s strengths in providing a sense of imagination in its vigorous style. It also worked well for some of its slapstick shenanigans, including the “Punch-Monkeys”. They’re monkeys that use punching as a form of communication, in case you’re wondering. They can be a bit too cartoony for some people, but hey, if that’s your thing, then you should be fine watching the cartoonish fireworks fly.
Overall, despite its delightful sense of silliness and a lively voice cast, “The Croods: A New Age” isn’t able to keep up with the evolution. There were some moments that may impress families and plenty of fans of the first film such as the characters, the humor, and the animation, but they’re not enough to help the film survive against the dangers of prehistoric life due to its derivative plot elements and its middling storytelling. This is one of the animated follow-ups that are just there to entertain the kids and nothing else, but have enough good stuff to justify their own existence. While far from a cash grab, this is definitely a step down from its predecessor in my opinion. If you enjoyed “The Croods”, then I think you might enjoy this one as well. It all depends on your expectations.