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The procedure of what goes into making an animated film is often a chaotic mess of management, talent, and simply trying to be prepared for unexpected roadblocks. That includes people leaving, directors changing, redoing certain scenes or sections, maybe redesigning or rewriting entire story beats and characters. It’s a hot mess that requires you to be ready, and that means being canceled and then brought back to life after a few years. This is what happened with a certain sequel to a DreamWorks film. So, let’s talk about The Croods: A New Age.
Directed by Joel Crawford, this sequel to the hit film from 2013 went through quite the production cycle, as it was announced that a sequel would be getting made back in 2013. It continued to be in production for 2014 and 2015, but then got canceled in 2016 after the Universal buyout of DreamWorks Animation. There were some doubts about it from Universal’s side of things, but they changed their minds in 2017, because it then went back into production. However, the original directors, Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco were replaced by Joel Crawford, which makes The Croods: A New Age Crawford’s first real directorial gig for a feature film. It was officially released on November 25th, 2020, and then got a Home Premier release a few weeks later. It had a budget of $65 million, and has raked in quite a hefty sum of cash to the tune of $115.3 million. As for its critical reception, it’s gotten pretty positive reviews, but nothing outwardly glowing. Well, at least I can add to the glowing praise of this film.
So, our story picks up a little bit after the first film. The Croods, which include Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, Grug, voiced by Nicolas Cage, Ugga, voiced by Catherine Keener, Thunk, voiced by Clark Duke, Sandy, voiced by Kailey Crawford, Gran, voiced by Cloris Leachman, and Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds are back as the main focus of this new film. As the family travels from place to place, there is some tension within the family, as Guy and Eep are about to make their relationship official. That is, until one day, the prehistoric family runs into a large wall. They of course make it through said wall, and find a bountiful and beautiful paradise full of fresh water and food. Unfortunately for them, they get caught in a trap, and find out that there was already a family living there. These are the Bettermans. The Bettermans include the husband Phil, voiced by Peter Dinklage, Hope, voiced by Leslie Mann, and their daughter Dawn, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. It turns out that Guy used to know the Bettermans, and shenanigans ensue as the Bettermans try to get Guy to hook up with Dawn, and for the Croods to leave. Will things settle down? Will Guy and Eep split up?
I’ve talked to my co-host of the animation podcast I am on, that DreamWorks sequels are for the most part, better than the original. Luckily, this is the case for this film. Instead of trying to be a somewhat grounded drama/comedy, The Croods: A New Age leans more on the comedy, but it still keeps around a lot of the themes of the original film, and even adds a few new ones. On top of the themes of always trying something new and dealing with the ever reliant force of change, with the Bettermans and their walled-off way of living, you have themes and commentary about immigration, discrimination, classism, racism, colonialism, and toxic mannerisms and dynamics. It’s a much deeper film than you would think, but I give DreamWorks credit for being creative with their premises, and pulling through with most of the topics they tackle with these sequels. It makes for a more fun movie as it also avoids a lot of the typical pitfalls that the previous film and most animated films fall into. For example, there is no love triangle. They make Dawn, Eep, and Guy be themselves while also giving some fantastic chemistry between the characters. It might have the over-protective dad trope, but the dads honestly get some of the more entertaining development and some of the funniest jokes in the entire film. Speaking of jokes, The Croods: A New Age is honestly quite funny! I found myself loving the expressive animation, and plenty of the best jokes were not shown in the trailers. This was a very comfort food-style film to watch during the holidays, because I found myself glued in front of this amusing experience from beginning to end. Not just because it was funny, but it had a story that, while it could have been better in some spots, was a lot more interesting and entertaining than I was expecting from a sequel that was greenlit, canceled, delayed, and then finally released. That’s a better fate than most films that go through production troubles.
Speaking of animation, I don’t know what DreamWorks did to half their budget from the first film, because the animation looks fantastic. I don’t know if it’s just the upgrade in animation tech from 2013 to 2020, Universal cracking down on DreamWorks’ bloated budgets from the past films, but whatever they did, they did a good job at keeping up the quality of the visuals. It’s such a vibrant film with the continuation of the previous film’s lovely color direction. I even like that they went more cartoony with the designs of the animals and humans. They seem to be more fun to animate, because the previous film was cartoony, but had more grounded movements and expressions. I think everything in this film looks better in general in every way possible.
In terms of the sound, I think the music is pretty good! We might not have Alan Silvestri, but we got Mark Mothersbaugh, who I think fits the tone and personality of the film. It’s a quirkier sounding soundtrack, and due to the more comedic tone, it fits! The voice cast is also fantastic, but that’s not a shock. The original cast of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman are fantastic as usual, and Cage gets to be a bit more of his “Cage self” in this film than the previous film. Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann are also delightful foils to the Croods, but my favorite performance has to go to Kelly Marie Tran as Dawn. Anytime she and Emma Stone were on screen together were some of my favorite moments, because Kelly seems to be having a lot of fun voicing the character.
Sure, this film has clunky moments, some of the jokes don’t work, it can be a touch loud at points, and it has some old tropes still laying around, but it set out to be a substantial sequel full of laughs, and it accomplishes it. It’s one of my favorite animated films from last year and one I can see myself easily wanting to own in the future. If you have yet to watch this film, then I recommend doing so. It’s a tight film, and I’m glad DreamWorks is continuing its progress in making good sequels. Now then, it is 2021, and we have to look at new films sooner or later. This means we must start with Netflix’s Charming.
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Rating: Go Check It Out!