Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Neolithic Knockout

The Croods       Final Cut Score: 94%

DreamWorks Animation you done good – ridiculously good.

In acute need of a smash following the financial debacle that was Rise of the Guardians, the employees at the Burbank-based, SKG-offshoot need not worry about another round of pink slips.

The Croods is the answer to your pecuniary prayers. It's the most wildly enjoyable animated offering in ages.

Who are the Croods? A semi-Flinstonish family of six prehistoric cave dwellers - counting grandma - who rarely venture beyond their boulder-doored den at the end of a claustrophobically snug canyon.

Led by their dimwitted dad, Grug (Nicolas Cage in a bit of nailed-it casting), the sloped-foreheaded patriarch demands his clan adhere to his rules, including: "New is always bad" and "Never not be afraid". With all manner of colossal creatures perched outside their lair, the lay-low approach is quite sensical for the possessor of a pea-sized brain.

Leave it to the rebel of the bunch, Grug's teen daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), to disregard the warnings, shoving her sheltered life aside in search of some adventure apart from the occasional hunt for oversized-egg nourishment.

The Cro-Magnon Lindsay Lohan-lookalike stumbles upon Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a nomadic juvie with a sloth for a sidekick – the long-armed beast doubling as Guy's pants-holder-upper, hence the crazy-cute critter's name: Belt.

Guy's fire-making ability draws the Croods out of their cave, guiding the sextet on a pilgrimage to the promised land – or at a minimum higher ground in an effort to survive the impending crush of cataclysmic events.

From haymaker-punching monkeys to piranha-swarming birds, Croodalia (for lack of a better term) is bursting with imagination and awe – its topography is tailor-made for 3D. Whether it's the cascade of luminous colors in the Pandora-esque jungle or the labyrinthine system of caverns leading to the travelling circus' nirvana, this is full-immersion escapism.

Written and directed by Chris Sanders (How to Train Your Dragon) and Kirk De Micco (uh, something titled: Space Chimps), it's a doozy of a twinbill-helmed piece with snappy pacing, immense laughs and little to no lag time for the 98-minute duration. The Croods has an oomph about it, all the more appreciated given the recent rash of cinematic bloatedness.

Awash with more wonder than the entirety of Oz, The Croods is the most entertaining film of the year thus far – a Neolithic knockout.