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!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 2

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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 editorial!)

Here we are with part two! If you haven’t checked out part 1, then you should, since I may or may not reference the previous films on this list. Here is the link to see part 1, and once you are done reading that list, you can go to this list. These films are the middle ground/”I wouldn’t want to watch again” films with the exception of the 11th film. Let’s begin!

18. The Croods

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Oh my golly gee, two DreamWorks films are in the middle of the list? Yeah, this is easily one of their worst years in terms of movies. The Croods definitely has more to it than Turbo, with some interesting concepts, like the old dealing with the new, adaptation, and evolution via the family and the evolved male they meet. The film also has some amazing visuals that are definitely more…Avatar-inspired, with lush vibrant plant life and animals. However, it unfortunately sticks into the “just okay” category of films, due to how it has some interesting ideas, but goes for a more generic tone of the father vs. the guy who’s crushing on his daughter, and becomes a mostly macho competition as they all avoid the danger of their ever-shifting earth. Some of the designs are neat, but they really oversexualized the daughter in this movie. Like, it’s trying so hard to be pleasing to the eye that it does the opposite. It’s a film that also falls under “great ideas and concept, but bad execution” category, which is something this year’s list of animated films are good at.

17. Alois Nebel

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This is easily one of the more visually impressive films from 2013. Alois Nebel is a Czech drama based on a graphic novel about a train dispatcher in the 1980s. He begins to deal with memories of when he was a young boy during World War II, as well as the problems of today after meeting a mute man at the station where he works. Its rotoscope animation and comic book art style definitely brings a personality to this morose story. It’s an ambitious film that’s unfortunately bogged down by a very slow pace. It can be very atmospheric and touching at times, but those parts are few and far between, due to how “plotless” the story can feel. It also has a bit of cultural history behind it, due to this period of time when this film takes place and the point of the WWII flashbacks. It’s not going to be for everyone, and I honestly had a hard time sitting through this film from beginning to end, but I respect it for doing something different than what we normally get with animation. It might be flawed, but it stands out among the 2013 animated films. Definitely get a copy of this, if it is your type of film.

16. Epic

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This film is infuriating, because there is a good dark fantasy film hidden somewhere in this inconsistently toned “epic” adventure. They didn’t need to make a Ferngully-style story, they should have taken out the stunt casting of Beyonce and Pit Bull since they had no reason to be there, a lot of the modern dialogue was distracting, and the comedy relief was grating. The only stunt casting I didn’t mind was Steven Tyler, and that was because he had some of the better lines in the overarching story. If they had just made it its own dark fantasy adventure film, with a more timeless script, mature story, kept the modern elements out, recast some of the stunt casting, and gotten a director like the Russo Brothers or J.J. Abrams, this would have been easily one of Blue Sky Studios’ best movies. It has a solid script (minus the distracting elements), beautiful animation, and some good action. Sadly, it’s a bunch of wasted potential, with villains with no reason to do what they are doing, and in the end giving the movie-goers a very forgettable time. I can understand why some people like it, but it’s more so a very expensive tech demo to show off how good they have gotten with their designs and animation than anything else.

15. Monster’s University

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Even though I already said this about a lot of films on this list, Monster’s University encapsulates the entire “studio mandated/pointless sequel/prequel/cash grab/wasted potential”-style movie perfectly. Yes, there are touching moments, yes, the voice work is entertaining, yes the moral at the end is rather well done, and yes, seeing the different elements of ‘scaring’ broken down into different categories is creative. However, it’s a purely inconsequential movie. We know what’s going to happen in the end, the characters are forgettable, the jokes were either decent or flat, and it’s yet another college frat movie that you saw a million times during the late 70s early 80s, like Animal House. I would have been fine with this film if they either did something clever, or made fun of those college comedies. There is a reason why I call this film the “film that forced Pixar to take a break”, since they didn’t release a film until 2015’s Inside Out, due to their string of failed movies including Cars 2, Brave, and Monster’s University. It’s harmless, but there could have been much more to this film, but Pixar decided to sleepwalk on it.

14. Superman Unbound

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While I don’t hate Superman, I never found him interesting as a character. This movie, Superman Unbound doesn’t really help the case. My overall thought on the movie is that it’s okay. It has some great action, a cool design for Brainiac, and the overall story is told decently, but the art style is very distracting. Superman, Lois Lane, and a lot of the characters don’t look great, and have these weird body types. Even Brainiac ended up being a bit of an idiot, which is always funny when even with how smart characters can be, they can still make some pretty big mistakes, and I don’t know whether it was intentional or not. Still, it was a decent action movie romp, but I would definitely skip this one, and move onto something like Superman vs. The Elite or Superman: Doomsday.

13. The Rabbi’s Cat

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I also reviewed this one in one of my earliest reviews, but I still stand by what I said about it being one of the more interesting, weird movies that I have seen. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable French animated film based off a graphic novel series about a cat that gains the ability to speak like a human after eating a parrot. It’s a slice-of-life-style film, where it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but the dialogue interactions of the characters keep it interesting. I also enjoyed hearing the characters talk about Judaism and their points of view on it. The ending is definitely underwhelming, and the story can be a bit unfocused, but if you are up for something that has a unique art style and a different kind of personality to it, then definitely check this out.

12. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2

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This is definitely a great and epic way to end one of the better animated comic book adaptations. I still don’t think that The Dark Knight Returns needed to be two parts, since I would rather judge it as a whole, and I don’t like the fact that DC keeps only making 75 minute-long films, but I digress. The second part of the overall story was dark in all the correct ways, I was glued to the screen watching how the story progressed, and while Superman and Batman are definitely older, the fight sequence between the two was intense and epic. I kind of call a stack of bologna on the ending, but it’s comic book stuff. Even then, it’s a great movie. Just try to find a way to get both parts in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition.

 

Stay tuned for the Part 3 of this list!