DreamWorks” “The Croods” inspired by Roald Dahls “The Twits” wasn’t just a hit. It was a box office hit, a ubiquitous phenomenon thanks to him “Ice Age” meets “The Flintstones; ‘Flintstones Family” Premise. Seven years later, the premise is not yet old. So when it comes to a sequel, the only mandate is: don’t break it.
The good news is that it doesn’t. The bad news? That’s all. “The Croods: A New Age” is not a big leap forward for the “The Croods” universe, just keeps the franchise on track. For many that will be enough: more adventures from Grug (Nicolas Cage), Ugga (Catherine Keener), Blow (Clark Duke), Eeep (Emma Stone) and Guy (Ryan Reynolds). But the film has the stamina of a campfire: it eventually goes out.
Once again passed by Joel Crawford ((“Kung Fu Panda”), “A New Age” flickers in and out of our consciousness, a distracting way to spend a few hours with the kids during this holiday season. It’s easy and fun, with a sitcom-style drama, when the Croods meet another family, The Bettermans, who threaten to change their prehistoric way of life.
This lifestyle is typical of the average caveman: hunting, gathering, and sleeping in heaps. In the Croods household, things look normal at first. Grug is concerned about the romance between Eeep and Guy, his daughter and the orphaned boy they picked up on the way in the first film. After learning of their move out plan, Grug finds the solution to keep his tribe together when he comes across a lush, candy-colored forest of fruits, trees, and waterfalls, beautifully rendered in neon technicolor by the production designer Nate Wragg.
However, this is Phil’s land (Peter Dinklage) and Hope Betterman (Leslie Mann), a pair of snooty hipsters from the Stone Age who live in a house with running water, separate rooms and of course a “human cave”. It turns out that they raised Guy after his parents were killed and they are planning to bring Guy up with their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). Embarrassing!
It doesn’t take long for the Croods to clash with the Bettermans, who are trying to control their lives with a list of house rules that include: “Don’t eat bananas!” These are used as bribes for the punch monkeys whose food supply has been interrupted. When ape monkeys attack, the two families must learn to work together, compromise, communicate, and set aside past differences for the common good. The message is far from subtle.
But compared to other animated films, “A New Age” – which has no bathroom jokes, no moody ballads, and no dead parents – is a kind of relief. The jokes land more often than not (the script is over Kevin Hageman, Dan Hagemen, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan, Kirk DeMicco, and Chris Sanders). The writers use contemporary tropes to come up with clever parts, including a riff over music videos and Thunk’s obsession with watching prehistoric television: a window.
The songs by Mark Mothersbaugh are of course bangers and parents might be happy to discover that the catchiest song on the soundtrack isn’t a new one, it’s the one Partridge family Classic: “I think I love you.” If only the rest of the movie was more memorable. It is by no means a disappointment. It’s what you’d expect from the characters and the world, and it does the job. However, the biggest buzz we can get for “A New Age” is that it’s not new – it’s the same primitive family-friendly fare that made the original a box office sensation. [C+]
“The Croods: A New Age” is out now in theaters.