“The Croods” continues DreamWorks Animation’s winning streak.
Even though DreamWorks’ movies historically have employed a chunky look that’s not as smooth or warm as some other studios’ animated offerings, and crude humor has taken precedence over strong narratives, lately things have changed. The sequel “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” and spinoff “Puss in Boots” were far better than their obnoxious predecessors.
Like last fall’s “Rise of the Guardians,” “The Croods” takes the blocky look and runs with it. The movie looks great in motion.
A family of prehistoric cave dwellers are the main characters: overprotective dad Grug (Nicolas Cage), his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), the indestructible mother-in-law Gran (Cloris Leachman), slow-witted son Thunk (Clark Duke) and Sandy, the feral baby with ferocious teeth.
But the story is really about the spunky, wild-haired daughter Eep (Emma Stone), who is too curious to stay in the cave for days on end being safe.
During an outing, she runs into Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who has learned to use rudimentary tools and to make fire. He even keeps his pants up with a slinky creature known as Belt.
Guy warns Eep and her family that trouble is coming and they had better make their way to high ground.
The movie has no real villains. The conflict is mainly between Grug and Guy, old and new, safe and adventurous, brawn and brains.
Reality is not a factor. The characters constantly run, jump and fall great distances with no concern for fatigue, gravity or wind resistance.
No dinosaurs you’ve ever heard of are on display, either. Filmmakers Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders have invented a whole slew of astounding new creatures, including a beautiful flock of birds with surprising eating habits.
Indeed, the incredible, surprising design — the vibrant colors, imaginative shapes and textures that make up the prehistoric world — is the movie’s real star. Figures stretching and squashing in an amazing universe provide constant, free-flowing, forward-moving conflict and humor.
Best of all, despite images of nose-picking in the movie’s poster, the jokes (likely thanks to co-writer John Cleese) keep the bodily oriented, gross-out humor to a refreshing minimum.