DreamWorks is the definition of a hit-or-miss animation studio. 'Rise of the Guardians' was superb in both substance and style. Yet movies like ' Puss in Boots,' 'Madagascar 3,' and their most recent film 'Turbo' have all been pretty ho-hum.
At some point all the CGI kids movies that come out nowadays sort of blend together. The occasional release stands out – it's usually a Pixar production, but even that's an iffy prospect these days – but mostly it feels like a whole lot of sameness. Most of them are colorful, have simple plots, and have a few funny moments. In other words, they work perfectly fine as electronic babysitters. Such is the case with DreamWorks' 'The Croods.'
We're in prehistoric times and the Croods are a loveable family of Neanderthals trying to do what every Neanderthal is trying to do, not get killed. It's a dangerous world out there, so the Croods tend to stay inside their cave cowering in fear. As Grug Crood (Nicolas Cage), papa caveman of this clan, always says, "Never not be afraid."
The Crood family is taught that curiosity is just about the most dangerous thing a caveman can have, so of course their daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) is naturally curious. A good old strained father-daughter relationship is brewing here. But, the movie wouldn't be complete without a few comedic generic characters like the sassy grandmother (Cloris Leachman), the doltish son (Clark Duke), the congenial mother (Catherine Keener), the wacky baby, and the loveable stranger (Ryan Reynolds). Now that they've got the formula down it's time to run the characters through the predictable paces, picking up a few zany animal friends along the way.
So, now you know what you're in for. As far as a kids movie goes, there's much worse out there than 'The Croods.' At least the movie's animation is stunningly brilliant to look at. No matter that none of the animals featured appear to have come from this planet since not one of them appears to fit into the evolutionary chain at all. Giant flying turtles, land whales with stubby legs walking around in the desert, and leafy elephants just to name a few of the stranger creations in this movie. Honestly, the food-imals of 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2' look more like known animals than the lifeforms in 'The Croods.'
The kids eat this stuff up though. At some point you just have to say, "Hey, if it makes Junior happy, I'm in." As far as competing with the strongest entries in the DreamWorks catalogue, 'The Croods' falls short. It's as vanilla as stories come. The hardnosed father is taught a lesson by his spunky young daughter in acceptance and living life to the fullest. In turn, she discovers that maybe her dad really does care about her and all that paranoid parenting actually meant something.
That said, there's some really fun animation in this movie. It's as if they said, screw the geological record, we're making our own evolutionary creations. Because of the inventiveness of the world of 'The Croods' and the creativity applied in the animation, the movie rises above the other formulaic kiddie movies. Not by much, but enough that it stands out among the rest.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The two-disc set comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and a DVD copy of the film. There's also an UltraViolet Digital Copy code included, along with an iTunes Digital Copy. The release comes complete with a slipcover and is labeled as being a Region A release.
It's pretty much standard practice to expect nothing but visual perfection from modern computer-animated movies when it comes to their HD presentations. 'The Croods' follows along nicely as it provides an extremely detailed, ultra-colorful 1080p image that continually wows and amazes.
Definition and detail are flawless. From the shaggy matted hair of Grug's caveman frock to the neon coat of fur on the world's weirdest saber-toothed tiger, the detail here is stupendous. Colors are simply dazzling to look at, and there are so many of them. This is one of the more colorful animated movies to come around in a while. It runs the gamut of primaries, and is heavy on the neon. One wonders what evolutionary advantages it would give a predator to be a giant furry glow stick, but it's fun to look at nonetheless. Black areas are sufficiently deep. Crushing is never an issue.
Banding, aliasing, and other technical hiccups that sometimes show up in CGI films are nowhere to be seen. From start to finish 'The Croods' is visually stunning. Demo material all around.
Provided with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, 'The Croods' matches the exceptionality of its video presentation with its audio. This is an immersive, entertaining audio mix that sucks you in and never lets you go.
There are plenty of examples where the movie's sound design makes great use of the seven channels. The opening chase scene where the Croods attempt to procure breakfast by stealing an egg, uses every channel in its arsenal. The action zooms from one speaker to another. The sound travels flawlessly back and forth through the sound field. There are other moments, like when the earth starts cracking up, where the LFE takes hold, providing deep, rumbling bass. Explosions of lava and smoke erupt from the earth's surface, causing the sub-woofer to roar.
The rear channels are equally impressive. The soundscape of 'The Croods' prehistoric world is a lively one. Once they enter the jungle the rear channels are alive with all sorts of far off jungle noises. This is an extremely interactive audio presentation. One that the whole family will enjoy.
Don't go in expecting creative storytelling. 'The Croods' is basically 'Ice Age' with better animation and cavemen instead of a mammoth, sloth, and saber-toothed tiger. What separates it from the pack of generic CGI kid movies is the outlandishly fun animation. It's never boring to look at. The creativity that wasn't spent on the story was surely spent on the movie's design. It's only fitting that this Blu-ray contain stellar video and tremendous audio. If you have kids and like eye and ear-candy, then 'The Croods' is a recommended title to pick up.