I will admit – I did not care about The Croods when it arrived back in 2013. The film may have been satiable for the younger crowd, brimming with gags and frenetic enthusiasm, but it brought little else to say for itself. Thus, the prospect of a sequel was not something I was excited about. I knew it was bound to happen. DreamWorks Animation had struck proverbial gold with the film, grossing nearly 600 million off the film, a unique feat for an original property.
In fact, because of that, it is surprising it took seven years for The Croods: A New Age to arrive, with series’ like Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Turbo happening after, making it feel like a lifetime since The Croods came out. Since then, not only has their been a Trolls film, but a Trolls sequel, as well. Neither of which made anywhere near what The Croods made at the worldwide box office, I might add. But I would imagine Trolls’ merchandising is far more lucrative than theirs.
Released seven years after The Croods, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, a time when other companies like Warner Bros. and Disney are either delaying their feature films or releasing them on streaming services, you would be forgiven for thinking of The Croods 2 as a sacrificial lamb. Although, who can’t appreciate the irony that Universal is currently the only major film company keeping theaters afloat after all the controversy surrounding their Trolls World Tour film’s direct-to-video release? In the end, The Croods: A New Age did better than I think anyone had any reason to expect it would. The feature cost about 65 million to create and will likely end up somewhere shy of 100 million worldwide when the dust has settled. It is not anywhere near close enough to cover the damages, but Universal is likely banking that the film will have considerable sales on the home-market in the same way Trolls did earlier this year. I believe this is a film release more about covering damages and nourishing the marketplace more than it is about capturing The Croods’ former glory.
The Croods: A New Age was directed by Joel Crawford in his directorial debut, with a screenplay by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Paul Fisher, and Bob Logan from a story by the directors of the original film Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders. What exactly four individuals commit or contribute when writing a screenplay for a film like The Croods 2, I cannot comfortably be for certain. Multiple screenwriters is something maybe justifiable for something like Star Wars, where the fanbase is ravenous enough to send death letters if one of Chewy’s hairs is out of place, but Croods 2 screenplay is something you scribble on the back of a napkin. The film comprises itself of considerable talent, with names like Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and, speaking of spiteful Star Wars fans, Kelly Marie Tran.
Thankfully, if you are like me, and could not even remember the slightest gist of what happened in the earlier film, A New Age starts with a brief summary of the original. Basically, prior to meeting Eep, it is revealed that Guy was in search of someplace called ‘tomorrow,’ told to him by his parents with their last breath. Now, Guy is an honorary member of Eep’s pack, although her father Grug is worried that he will one day steal her away. When The Croods stumble upon a large wall, enclosing a family that aptly introduces themselves as the Betterman‘s, who have shed themselves of caveman sensibilities and taken the first steps toward organized society. Guy recognizes them and believes that this was the ‘tomorrow’ his mother and father told him about. To the reluctance of the Bettermans, who conspire to establish a romantic bond between Guy and their daughter Dawn, The Croods take well to life within the walls, all except for the father Grug, whose once more feeling like his way of living is under attack.
The film’s animation is competent, but uneventful beyond the production value we have come to expect from DreamWorks Animation prior. This is a film I believe you need to enter into with the right state of mind, the same state of mind you would need to enjoy the original film. Most of DreamWorks and Disney Animation is targeted at children and young adults. Appeasing them is what is most important to their bottom line, but is, by no means, the only audience involved. Adults like animation as well, and nostalgia or a perceived quality is what certain companies like Pixar and certain series’ like How to Train your Dragon are known for. The Croods: A New Age, however, is not among them.
This is a goofy film with a formulaic structure and gags we have already seen in some form. The conflicts are introduced and done away with in predictable fashion. This is less the studio that brought you the creative charm of Shrek or the cinematic wealth of How to Train your Dragon and more the company that brought you The Boss Baby, and that is not inherently detrimental. I was charmed by The Boss Baby, for what it was, and even if it might not be something I ever watch again, I left unscathed.
The Croods: A New Age feels pretty standard, with plot threads and developments more suitable for their Netflix animated series than a full blown feature film. The most offensive aspect about it is seeing talented people like Emma Stone and Peter Dinklage involved, and Nicholas Cage, … but we have seen him involved with a lot worse than this, when I would prefer them gnawing on meatier fare. I can’t remember enough about the original film to say for certain whether it is better or inferior, and I think if I did not write this only hours after seeing the first, I would have forgotten too much about it to write a review.
I would not recommend it to anyone looking for a solid animated film, and I certainly would not recommend the current asking price of a $20 rental, but, if you have children, or a wife that happened to like the first (like me), you could do a lot worse than this film.