It’s quite strange that in the recent past, most of the films about family have been the kind that families really *cannot* watch together. From Meet The Fockers (where Little Jack learns the word ‘assh**e’) to The Kids Are Alright (where kids learn about artificial insemination), to The Royal Tenenbaums (where a brother is in love with his sister) to Grown Ups (where, you know, Adam Sandler) or err… Paranormal Activity and We Need to Talk About Kevin (where people DIE), you can’t really take kids along and expose them to the “magic of cinema” with these titles.
In such a time, when – horror of horrors – you don’t even mind a Tim Allen or Steve Martin film as long as it’s a well done family comedy, it’s been up to the animation genre to save the day. And boy! Have they delivered! Less than every 9 months, there’s a film in which the animated characters make you laugh, sigh, feel and cry, more than their human counterparts can in their overrated blockbusters.
The Croods joins the long list of awesome animation films that you go in for, expecting to have a great time, and end up having an even better one. And for a change, this is an animated family film that actually features a family of humans (yay!). Of course, there’s gotta be a quirky twist, because humans today are SO boring. That’s why we have here a family of Neanderthal cavemen, the Croods, who hunt to survive against all odds. And when I say ‘all odds’, I mean animals the size of mountains, landslides and earthquakes together, and the world ending (not puny stuff like “salary kam hai”, “Boss c**tiya hai” or “girlfriend nahin deti.”
But while the external problems that The Croods face are starkly different from ours, the family is just as dysfunctional as any one of ours. There’s an overprotective father, Grug (Nicholas Cage) whose motto is, “If you try something new, you DIE”. There’s a spoilt, bratty teenager, Eep (Emma Stone), who is exactly the opposite – she’ll die if she doesn’t do something new. There’s a daft 13 year old, Thunk (Clark Duke); a psycho granny, Gran (Cloris Leachman); a cannibalistic (yes!) 4-year old daughter, Sandy; and a motherly mother, Ugga (Catherine Keener), who’s just trying to hold this demented family together.
Then there’s Guy (Ryan Reynolds)… a teenager who knows all there is to know, does what is to be done, and comes up with ideas like “there’s no tomorrow”. Except, he believes there is a ‘Tomorrow’ – it’s a wonderful, bright, happy destination that he’s trying to reach. Along the way, he meets the madcap family, who capture him, because they don’t know any other way of asking for help and because, to them, he’s ‘new’.
An adventurous Journey to the Center of the Earth-meets-Ice Age type road trip follows, and I swear, the last time I laughed so hard was when Harbhajan Singh slapped Sreesanth. In my opinion, Ryan Reynolds is one of the finest comic talents of our generation (Check out Two Guys and A Girl if you haven’t) and even in an animated avatar, his vocal range makes his character so hilarious that you almost start disliking Scarlett Johansson for leaving him. (Then, of course, you remember that she is Scarlett Johansson, so you start liking her again.)
If Reynold’s Guy is the funniest teenage guy you’ve seen since McLovin (Superbad), then Emma Stone’s Eep is the awesomest teenage girl you’ve seen since the last Emma Stone movie (Crazy, Stupid, Love), and the one before that (Easy A), and the one before that (Zombieland), and… MARRY ME, EMMA STONE!!!! Sigh.
But possibly the best part of The Croods is the return of Nicholas Cage. Make no mistake, The Croods is Nicholas Cage’s Expendables. In the smartest move of his career, Cage does a role in which his face is not visible, and ends up kicking ass in it, perhaps for that very reason. Cage puts so much heart into the role of Grugg, the overprotective father who can’t do anything right, that I admit, I got teary-eyed in the climax (but in a manly way, of course. Insert macho grunt here).
It’s been a long time since there’s been a family film so perfectly written, acted and executed, with all the right emotions, in the right mix and in the right places. Don’t miss The Croods even if you don’t have kids – it’s one of the best films of the year.