2013-03-22

The Croods – Are Dad’s Rules Necessary

by Yo Snyder

Okay, let me see if I understand this. You’re telling me
that Dreamworks Animation made a movie that doesn’t involve Shrek or his
friends, the gang from Madagascar, or the guys from Ice Age or even that Panda
and his friends, and it’s actually good? First of all, are they even allowed to
make a movie that isn’t one of those other ones? Second of all, how is it
possible that it’s actually good? Those are probably a few of thoughts that
might run through your mind after seeing The
Croods
, I know they raced through mine. Nevertheless, The Croods is an original Dreamworks animated film, and yeah, it’s
actually quite good.

Now I’m not entirely sure what Dreamworks is hoping will be
the draw here. No cute animals (well, maybe a couple, but they don’t talk), no
kung-fu, no fairytale setting; it’s just a bunch of cavemen trying to survive. That’s
a tough sell. I pretty much ignored the movie until I heard that John Cleese
had a hand in crafting the story. That’s right, John Cleese helped write the story for The Croods. Now if that doesn’t grab your attention, I don’t know
what will. However, although this movie may not be one that initially grabs
one’s attention, it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s a heart-warming story
that’s all about the importance of family and the importance of dads, and it’s
genuinely funny. In fact, although it’s called The Croods, which makes it sound like you’re saying the crudes,
it’s actually not crude at all. It’s weird to say about a Neanderthal movie,
but it’s actually pretty smart. No low-brow, potty humor here. There’s plenty
of gags, puns and physical ones, but not once does the film stoop to anything
so crude as a fart joke. It would have been so easy, too, but this movie
resists that urge and it’s funnier for it.

The other odd thing is this just may be Nicolas Cage’s best
movie in years. I know, that’s a strange thing to say, but it’s because he’s so
spot on with Grug, the dad of the Croods, that this movie work as well as it
does. He perfectly expresses the angst of every dad whoever wanted just to keep
his family safe and happy. He also is spot on with the truly difficult moment
when another man enters the life of a daddy’s beloved “little” girl. That’s not
an easy moment for any dad, and Cage totally nails the complex emotions that
come with it. Best of all, he even has a moment where he does an impersonation
of himself. I know, that sound weird, but trust me, it’s hilarious. Good stuff
from Cage, and from the rest of the cast as well.

Now, the Croods are a family of cavemen who have stayed
alive thanks to the strength of the dad and his insistence on following the
rules. However, that insistence on adhering to the rules is starting to chaff
on his daughter Eep. One day, however, she meets every father’s nightmare; a
nice, handsome, decent young boy who’s smarter than dad is. Worse, he
unwittingly encourages Eep to challenge the notion that rules are good. By the
end of the film, the Croods are still alive thanks to the help of the new guy,
Guy, and thanks to them all embracing the idea that rules kept them in the dark
and going beyond the rules allowed the be free and follow the light. And it’s
right there where my only problem with this movie lies.

I find interesting that a movie that’s so pro-family and so
pro-dad is also so anti-rules. There’s one point where Grug, the dad, exclaims,
“I’m only trying to keep my family safe!” and then continues more softly,
“that’s what dads do.” As a dad of a couple young girls myself, that moment
really tugged at me because it’s so true. It what any loving dad wants for his
family, for them to be safe, protected and cared for; hence why dads so often
lay down some rules, to help protect their family. Yet this movie would have
one believe that the dad was wrong about rules and his family was actually
better off without them. Now it’s true that rules just for rules sake, without
rhyme or reason just to exercise some sense of power and control, are not such
a good idea. There’s a very useful formula to keep in mind when it comes to
rules; rules – relationship = rebellion. In short, putting rules in place
without showing or expressing the care that’s behind those rules will
inevitably lead to rebellion. Grug had trouble showing and telling his family
how much he cared and hence why he had certain rules. Many people feel that
Christianity is nothing but rules designed to spoil our fun, but that’s because
they miss the fact that our Heavenly Father loves us a great deal. He doesn’t
make rules to ruin things for us, he makes rules to free us to enjoy life even
more. He wants us to be safe, protected, cared for and to be happy. Sometimes rules can help us experience just that,
and since God is the only truly perfect father in existence, we can no that
none of his rules are ever unfair or unreasonable (which is sadly the case at
times for me and any other day; tough to admit, but we need to when we are
wrong that way). In short, rules need to be balanced with a loving
relationship, and loving relationship needs the balance of rules; one without
the other will indeed leaves in the dark, but when they’re combined, that’s
truly when we’ll step into the light of the Father’s love.

The Croods is
funny, heart-felt and just flat out enjoyable. Plus it’s a darn good-looking
movie too. I don’t know how they did it, but Dreamworks totally nailed a sort
of ape-like movement for some of the characters without it being a caricature
of cavemen. Plus, no baths back then, and somehow the animators got the perfect
look for what skin looks like when it’s dirty; that sort of caked-on sort of
dirt and dust look, you know what I’m talking about? There are also plenty of
jaw dropping moments of beauty and spectacle, and the 3D effect has some fun as
well with floating objects and the like. It’s just an all around impressive effort.
Great voice acting, a familiar story that’s still enjoyable because it’s told
so well, plenty of laughs and lots of heart, and one of the best-looking
animated movies in recent years.

The Croods aren’t exactly the Flintstones, and they aren’t
some spin-off group from the Ice Age series. They are their own, unique entity.
They are a prehistoric family who can teach modern families a few things about
why family is important and that yes, families can not only live together, but
actually like being together. They a
family that shows how even though life may be full of challenges, some that may
seem insurmountable, things are always better when you have a loving family to
support you. Is it too much to say that The
Croods
is one of the most surprising movies of the year? It may only be
March, but…no, I don’t think it’s too much to say that.

Score: 6 of 7 – The Croods is rated PG, and there are a
couple slightly scary moments and one pretty dramatic moment that had kids in
our screening crying. On the whole though, it’s a great movie for the whole
family. Again, my biggest concern is for a movie that’s so pro-family it’s
strange that it also spends so much time making rules look bad.