News Column

Crude to the very core

May 7, 2013


Nepal, May 7 -- An all-American family learning to live in fast- changing times the Croods might very well be living in some wide- laned, white-picket-fenced suburb somewhere in the US. And yet we find them trying to live life-one day at a time-in pre-history. The Croods are possibly a Neanderthal family; they're stockily built and not quite as 'innovative' as Guy, who, with his slender limbs and clearly more highly developed intellect, looks and acts a lot more 'evolved' than all of them. And yet, when Papa Crood, Mama Crood, Baby Crood, Grammy Crood, presumably pre-pubescent son and presumably pubescent daughter Croods go out hunting, their 'game- plan'(for hunting a giant egg-this is pre-history, remember) looks very similar to that of American football, and whenever the Crood children sulk and misbehave, they are speedily reprimanded; in more suburban American words, they're 'grounded'. Papa Crood Grug (Nicholas Cage) is the quintessential 'I want only what's best for my family' kinda father, and his teenage daughter Epp (Emma Stone) is the 'I want to explore the world!' kinda adolescent who falls for Guy (Ryan Renolds, and possibly Homo sapien) a boy who can make F-I- R-E. This obviously creates opportunities for Grug to learn to accept his daughter's desire for change and freedom and do what every other father (as Hollywood has taught us over the years to so easily expect) ultimately has to do: welcome his little girl's love into the family. The Croods, accustomed to huddling together in their dark cave when night falls, discover an entirely new universe with Grug, and this, basically is what DreamWorks studio's animation feature The Croods is all about. Of course, there's the brilliant backdrop against which all of this movement takes place, and that is pretty much the only thing that makes watching the film worthwhile.

Cheated would be the word most apt to describe the way I felt after watching The Croods. With a budget of $135 million and a technical team that delivered through and through, the least the movie production team could have done is pay a little more attention to the story and the characters. After all, no amount of playing with fancy technology is ever going to mask the fact that you're essentially producing a story-less film and I'm sure the guys at DreamWords knew that when they were making The Croods. Having grown up watching Disney's The Lion King (1994) again and again and again, I kind of always expect all animated movies to inspire the same kind of emotion and awe in me. Granted I've grown older over the years, but a well-made animated feature for kids can work wonders for 'adults' as well. DreamWorks's own Shrek (2001) was such a film. So was 20th Century Fox's Ice Age (2002)-set in a time when perhaps both the Homo neanderthalensis and the Homo sapien, and consequently the Crood family and Guy were walking the earth.

The Croods has nothing to offer really. The characters are sketchy, much like Papa Crood's cave paintings (which at least have a certain allure to them), and the 'humour' in the film is all derived from feeble, often out-of-place jokes. In fact, the film inadvertently commits a few gaffes that are quite hard to digest. Mama Crood Ugga actually changes her untamed hair, tied in a somewhat Wilma Flintstone-like high bun to a well-shampooed, well- conditioned looking long bob-quite like those of TV's numerous suburban soccer moms-after having met Guy. It almost feels like the audience is being told that while it's okay for the 'less- civilised' to have thick, bushy, dreadlock-like hair, the 'civilised' people, who are all for 'change', need to look a bit more, shall we say, well-kempt. Ugga's 'new look' does little if anything to tell you how she's opened up to Guy's new ideas and is beginning to explore that there just might be an alternative to Grug's "Never not be afraid" and 'always head back to the safety of the cave' fix to all the dangers that might be 'out there'. The filmmakers seem to have seen no need to devote time and energy into the story and into the characterisations for any sort of detail to matter. There is little one can do to relate to the characters themselves who are even less than stereotypes. Grug: burly caveman averse to change, Eep: adventurous youngster driven by curiosity, Guy: intelligent youngster who, unlike Grug, relies on brain instead of brawn, Ugga: cavewoman, Grug's wife, Thunk: caveboy, Crood son, Gran: ferocious cavewoman, mother-in-law to Grug, and Sandy: ferocious Crood baby, pretty much sums them all up.

The Croods are the last family of their kind in the film. All the others have been trampled upon by mammoths, killed by sabre tooth tigers or met their ends in some equally tragic accident. This, sadly, will not be the last we see of the Croods. The Croods 2, with writer-director duo Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders-who worked on the original-is already being planned, and one can only imagine what a sequel to an already wishy-washy film is going to be like. Sequels are seldom good news, and this time, the word will likely-although I do hope I'm wrong-spell Debacle.

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