The Croods: A New Age unfolds like an American football game where a perennial 5-11 team (I’m looking at you, Washington) grabs a first quarter lead. For a short while, fans hold out hope that the familiar patterns will be avoided. By the end, things revert to normal, and one finds oneself thinking of what might have been rather than celebrating what one actually saw.
The sorta fresh twist is that the Croods meet the Bettermans, a more…evolved…family that sleep in separate rooms, practice personal hygiene, and have windows in their tree cave. It turns out the Bettermans were are/were Guy’s adoptive family before he met the Croods, so his reunion with them threatens to drive him away from Eep and her Crood-ish family. The Bettemans have their own daughter that they’d like to see Guy hook up with — and she’s thinner, prettier, and everything-er than Eep.
It’s a thin premise, but this is an animated family movie, and I’ve seen thoughtful entertainment crafted from less. The problem is that the culture clash is a red herring. Sure, prejudices exist in both crude and refined cultures, but do we really want to send kids the message that bathing and sleeping in separate beds is only just for snobs?
For Grug (Nicholas Cage) there is an empty nest fable. He doesn’t like the Betterman patriarch, but he fears losing Eep to Guy. Consequently, he goes along with plans to break up the young love birds and pair Guy with — dare I say it? — one of his own kind.
Perhaps the most depressing thing about The Croods: A New Age is that its mediocrity is not liable to matter much. If my neck of the woods (North Carolina) is any indication, it’s impossible to underestimate just how badly people want to go back to the movie theaters. Chains renting private sessions are pushing family entertainment (bring your own birthday cake!) and the social media page of the new drive-in was peppered with parents lamenting that they had to show arthouse flicks when everyone should just be thinking about the kids. It may turn out that it is the animated family movie, not the summer blockbuster, that starts pushing pandemic-shy viewers back to the theaters.
But maybe I underestimate the film? I was a bit taken aback while researching that the original film scored a North Carolina Film Critics Association nomination for Best Animated Film in 2013. (It lost to the slightly less underwhelming Monsters University.) I don’t think The Croods: A New Age is going to muscle aside Wolfwalkers for any awards in the animated category, but it’s one hundred minutes of passable entertainment.
For those starved for new content, that ain’t nothing.