The Other Side of Animation 202: The Croods: A New Age Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

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.

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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?

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time! 

Rating: Go Check It Out!

The Other Side of Animation 137: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While following the animation scene is a lot of fun, with finding new directors and discovering new animation projects, any scene in the entertainment industry or any industry at all has its dark side. One of the loudest toxic reactions you will ever get is if you dare like a show like Teen Titans Go! Listen, I get the annoyance and anger of them canceling the original show for, from what I remember, no real reason, and then years later replacing it with something more comedic and less violent. However, people really need to let go of the anger for this show. Yes, it can be fairly vapid and stupid, but the show has a lot of great episodes, moments of clever writing, and really funny jokes. It just seems unfair to throw this show under the bus, when the original Teen Titans show from the 2000s had mostly that same kind of humor. You can easily connect the two shows without much effort. Not every episode was dark and mature. The new show isn’t perfect, and the original isn’t either. If people like both shows, then that’s fine. I’ll say this though, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a way better movie than Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. Directed by the series creators Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, in terms of animation this year from the big studios, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies might be one of the biggest surprise of th eyear. What do I mean by this? Well, let’s check it out.

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The story follows our rambunctious group of “heroes”, Robin, voiced by Scott Menville, Beast Boy, voiced by Greg Cipes, Cyborg, voiced by Khary Payton, Raven, voiced by Tara Strong, and Starfire, voiced by Hynden Walch. After attempting to take down Balloon Man, voiced by Greg Davies, the villain is actually stopped by the combined forces of Wonder Woman, voiced by Halsey, Green Lantern, voiced by Lil Yachty, and Superman, voiced by Nicolas Cage. The three heroes call out the Titans for not really being heroes and all that comes with the responsibility. However, before the Titans can get chewed out too much by the adult heroes, they leave to go to Batman’s new movie premiere of Batman Again! Once there, and getting hugely ridiculed for not getting a movie, Robin decides that the only way to be taken seriously as heroes, is to get their own movie! Unfortunately, there are two things standing in his way, a movie director named Jade Wilson, voiced by Kristen Bell, and the fact that they don’t have a supervillain to call their own. Luckily for them, a supervillain named Slade, voiced by Will Arnett is trying to steal this stone to make his diabolical plan come to fruition! Can the Titans stop Slade? Will Robin get his own movie?

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I think it’s only fair if I started out with the positives. I have way too much to praise to save it for the last part of the review. First off, for a film on a $10 mil budget, and a simplistic art style, it looks really good. With these types of films, you have to grade on a slight curve. What saves it from simply looking like another film based on a TV show that didn’t really need to be in theaters, is the fact it constantly uses varying art styles during certain sequences. It’s mostly in the song sequences and certain gags, but I love that they were given the freedom to go all out on visuals. I would argue that it looks more visually interesting than most CGI films from this year. The backgrounds look crisper, and while the designs are still simple, I felt like the movements were smoother. This isn’t something like that awful She-ra film from decades ago that was pretty much done on the same budget as one of the episodes of He-Man.

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The biggest highlight of the film however is its comedy. From left to right, the film takes full advantage of being a superhero comedy that uses a lot of its best style of jokes and gags from the well-received episodes of the show. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies has some of the wittiest meta, self-deprecating, and best visual jokes of any comedy this year. It even has some of the darkest humor of 2018, where they take joy in what they do. I was surprised by this, because the writers and directors could have easily made this film a feature length version of an episode of the show that no one liked. Luckily for us, they lathered up all that elbow grease, and made sure this film had consistent laughs that were great for the kids, parents, and comic book fans. Even though it has a decent amount of low-brow humor, it does have a defense, in terms of reinforcing why the Titans got called out in the first place. I found myself consistently laughing alongside the audience when I went to go see this movie, and I was happy to see everyone young and old enjoying the film. You might even have to watch this film multiple times to spot all the jokes in the backgrounds. I could tell I missed a few. A lot of the reoccurring gags still have bite to them.

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However, one of the greatest aspects of this film is not on the visual or writing side of things, though, those are incredible, it’s the fact that the voice actors of the show and film get top billing. Yes, there are a huge amount of celebrities in small roles or rather questionable cameos, but they don’t get top billing. The ones you see on the posters and in the credits are the voice actors. I’m so happy about this, because they could have taken the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic the Movie, and put all the big celebrities who had varying amounts of screen time first in the credits and posters. Yes, Kristen Bell and Will Arnett get billing, but Greg Cipes, Tara Strong, Khary Payton, Hynden Walch, and Scott Menville deserve it more than everyone else. I’ll say this though, my favorite celebrity cameo was Patton Oswalt as the Atom, who has some of the best laughs out of the movie.

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I love Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, and I found it hysterical from beginning to end, but I do have some complaints about this silly movie. While I get that the film needed a plot to keep the jokes rolling, the overall plot is not the most interesting. It’s a case where everything that happens between the predictable story beats are more entertaining than Robin’s arc of getting over his crippling self-esteem issues of living under the shadow of the Batman. While I did care enough for our heroes to save the day and be fully okay with being silly characters, I think I would have rather them not try to make this film have emotional stakes. Like, I care, but it felt like the film wanted you to feel invested with the Titans, but also laugh at a lot of the comedic scenes that go into surprisingly dark comedic areas. It clashes with the comedy, when you are also told to care about the characters. Not to say you can’t be emotionally invested with characters in a comedy, but you have to be careful with how you execute it. My final complaint is that I wish the film didn’t lean on the lowbrow humor. It might have a reason to be there, but when the rest of the humor is so good, the fart, toilet, and twerk jokes feel out of place.

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In general, this film reminded me that everyone shouldn’t be taking everything so seriously about the franchise and this type of media in general. Listen, there is nothing wrong with having legit issues with the franchise. However, there is also nothing wrong with enjoying the series and loving this movie. I’m not going to apologize for having a great time with Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. It’s easily one of my favorite comedy films of 2018. I can see myself rewatching this film when it comes out on DVD. I highly recommend everyone go see it. The only reason I would say not to see this film, is because this series isn’t your cup of tea, or simply aren’t interested in seeing it. I will say this though, they are not blackmailing fans of the original with this movie. You simply need to learn about how the current animation climate on TV works. Also, don’t go see this if you are going to hate on it. That doesn’t solve anything. While I have had fun talking about comedies for the past two reviews, it’s time to move on to another Netflix-exclusive animated feature with Flavors of Youth. Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!