Commentary 28 Mar 2013 05:40 am
There can be no denying Chris Sanders‘ extraordinary talent. His character design is unmistakably his own. Slightly wall-eyed creatures who all have an extra dose of . . . I’m not sure what to call it. One wants to say “cuteness”, but that is decidedly the wrong word. It’s in those eyes. There’s an innocence there, and that overrides just about everything else in his creatures.
To house those wide set eyes, you need an extra thick head. Just right for cave dwellers.
For the first half hour or so of The Croods I spent a lot of time wondering about these characters that were being pushed at me. The direction was harsh, loud, fast and annoying. The tone was equal to that. The Croods is the new Dreamworks feature co-directed by Sanders and Kirk De Micco, the latter fresh off directing Space Chimps, a successful independently produced cgi animated feature released by 20th Century Fox last year. This film, The Croods, is something of a mess. (By the way, what are they trying to say with that title? Obviously, “Crood” is the Neanderthal spelling of “crude”, but even still it doesn’t really make much sense. You can tell yourself it does, but no. Sorry. Unfortunately, that’s a good example of what the film’s jokes are like, and they repeat them often.)
The story is a cliché; it seems to be the endlessly repeated story of this generation. They keep making the same film. Feisty daughter doesn’t want to be part of the cookie-cutter mold so fights with the father until dad learns the lesson and gives the girl some space. In Brave, at least, it was her mother the girl was fighting. Here, we stick to the formula – tried and true and predictable.
It took about five minutes for me to remember that Nicholas Cage was the big voice. I didn’t remember that he was in it and his “Valley girl” accent was very irritating. In this film everyone except Catherine Keener, as the mom, sounds like they’re ripped from the Valley. The film, about the division and replacement of the earth’s land masses feels as though it’s not about the entire planet but more about Southern California. I felt left out of the movie.
The world of these cave people is populated with few other people although there are a bunch of imaginary animals. The animals are supposed to be real, but they were created by the writer/designers. Obviously all were afraid of being called inaccurate if they included dinosaurs; dinosaurs didn’t coexist with humans. (Sorry, “Creationists” this was the reality of what did happen.) Instead, we get a bunch of creatures that look like oversized stuffed animals, and they threaten the existence of the Croods and other humans.
Actually, I’m not sure if I should call the Croods “human”. I assume they’re supposed to be Neanderthal since they’re not as highly developed as Guy, the young man voiced by Ryan Reynolds, who arrives midway through the film. He is obviously from a different, higher-functioning species than the Croods. Regardless of all this, all of the characters speak with California accents and usage. Undoubtedly it was written for the 21st century and the teens of that period. Again, I felt left out not being a teenage girl from Santa Monica.
Let’s step away from the story (hard to do when you’re watching the film.) Actually, you’re being assaulted by the film as it comes at you and comes at you, loud and violent. This is much different than most of the cgi films these days. Even Brave didn’t have the patience to properly develop all that it had on its mind without just flinging it at you. But Dreamworks keeps going there. No quiet moments for the weary. This film is miles better than Rise of the Guardians, but it has its own share of problems.
The one thing it does have is Chris Sanders with that beautiful drawing style, and his art is oftentimes glorious to watch. Of course, I know he’s not doing all the drawing and painting, but he is directing it. I’m not sure of Kirk De Micco;s contribution; I don’t know his work. I have to assume it has to do with the commercial asp;ects of this film – all the hyper movement, gag setups, short scenes. I do wish the two of them could tone down the energy in the film. Animate the story and let it come to the audience. It doesn’t have to attack the audience to get where it wants to go. If Nick Cage’s character smashed his head into one more rock or chased another stuffed animal I would have walked out. The sad part is there was a genuine character in that father. At the film’s start he was most definitely only 3/4 human with Neanderthal man trying to get out. You get much the same from Emma Stone’s girl. She started out as an original – no doubt related to Meridia from Brave. Her wiry hair even has some movement of its own to prove it. I found Emma Stone’s reading not as strong as I expected, but the animators pulled a real person out of it. Despite all the milked activity that is thrown at you at a zealous pace.
No, the film just wasn’t good enough. Good effects, good 3D (though my eyes kept watering) and some good artwork. All the dialogue was pathetic and the story was trite. My first thought is that we deserve more.
The film opened with $52.9 million coming from the U.S. and another $62.4 million coming from International sales. That means that the film earned more than $115 million in the first weekend. Neanderthals do well at the box office. Take a look at all those Ice Age films from Blue Sky & 20th Fox. The Croods is the first of the films 2th Fox is distributing of the Dreamworks product. They just moved to this distributor from Paramount. Rupert Murdoch ca dance in the streets and make a few more Neanderthal movies. There probably won’t be any Oscars, but they’ll garner the real gold with this material.
Maybe we’re getting exactly what we deserve.