‘The Croods: A New Age’ up to its old tricks

Rick's Reviews

“The Croods: A new Age” goes for prehistoric humor. (Photo courtesy of DreamWorks)

(KGET) — It is rare when the sequel to a good movie ends up being as good as the original. The chance for failure goes up when the original wasn’t that good to begin with as is the case with the new animated offering “The Croods: A New Age.” The film opens in theaters Nov. 25.

The follow-up to the lackluster 2013 release, “The Croods,” is a failed effort from an uninspired story to the lack of original comedy. It’s great movies are returning to theaters but that doesn’t justify this kind of prehistoric mess.

“The Croods: A New Age” picks up with the family going on the quest for a better life promised in the first film. The muscle-brained Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), his progressive wife Ugga (Catherine Keener) and their clan are following newcomer Guy (Ryan Reynolds) in search of a safer place to live.

They find it in an oasis in the prehistoric wasteland with the home built by the Bettermans (Get it? Better mans.) Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) Betterman have created a semi-modern world with everything from showers to elevators.

Instead of this being a paradise for the Croods, they have trouble dealing with giving up their old ways such as sleeping in a human pile. There’s also a romance war surrounding Guy which makes sense as he appears to be the only eligible man on the planet.

The failed attempt at cartoonish humor as the families try to bond is replaced in the last act by a massive fight for survival that is way too intense for young moviegoers. The contrast of the two parts of the film points out the major problems with “The Croods: A New Age.”

It is not clear who the audience should be. The screenplay by a long list of writers could have gone for the kind of smart humor that made “The Flintstones” so popular. That TV show constantly showed how ancient materials could be used to create modern conveniences. That’s a smart way to go for laughs.

Instead, “The Croods: A New Age” uses a few elements but never enough to create consistent laughter. The film just looks like a family comedy that tries to milk humor out of part of the group being less sophisticated.

Once the movie goes dark with the final battle scene, the production no longer comes across as welcoming to youngsters. The sequences are fast and furious but cross the line to being too intense.

Director Joel Crawford, who worked on the kid-friendly “Trolls” and the adult funny “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, tries to bring both styles to his first full-length directing project. He wedges both in but the fit is very poor.

The best thing about “The Croods: A New Age” is the voice work. Cage brings the kind of gruffness needed to make Grug such a lovable lug while Keener’s motherly tones are a perfect fit for the clan’s matriarch. Both Dinklage and Man have the kind of snooty voice quality that works as a balance to the members of the Croods family.

The biggest wastes are Emma Stone as the very independent Croods daughter Eep. Her voice doesn’t have a distinct enough register to make her casting work. And Reynolds speaks for Guy with such a passive approach that his usually very recognizable voice is lost in the chatter.

When the best thing that can be said about a movie is that it is better heard than seen, there are problems the size of a brontosaurus. That’s no big surprise as sequels generally are a major gamble.

Movie review

The Croods: A New Age

1 1/2 stars

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Leslie Mann.

Director: Joel Crawford

Rated: PG for peril, crude humor

Running time: 95 minutes.

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