Plenty of inoffensive family fun in 'The Croods'

Home is where the heart is in Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders’s energetic romp about a prehistoric family who embark on a perilous quest to find a new settlement.

Initially touted as a stop-motion project for Bristol-based Aardman Animations, ‘The Croods’ suffered numerous delays in production and arrives on the big screen bearing many similarities to computer-animated films of yesteryear.

The setting and saccharine father-daughter bonding are strikingly reminiscent of ‘Ice Age 4: Continental Drift’, while the rebellious flame-haired heroine shares many tomboy qualities with Pixar’s wee Highland lassie ‘Brave’.

Familiarities aside, De Micco and Sanders’s film bursts with vibrant colour, especially in eye-popping 3D, punctuated by lively action set pieces, including a hunting sequence that draws in several otherworldly species.

A cuddly sloth called Belt provides comic relief amid the emotional syrup and the underlying message about chasing your dreams, regardless of how ridiculous they sound to other people, is hammered home with all the subtlety of a caveman’s club to the cranium.

Grug Crood (voiced by Nicolas Cage) has taught his family to be afraid of the dark and new experiences.

He protects his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), restless daughter Eep (Emma Stone), oafish son Thug (Clark Duke), feral baby daughter Sandy and decrepit mother (Cloris Leachman) by ushering them into a cave, where they will be safe from the prehistoric creatures that roam the land.

“Darkness means death, fear keeps us alive, never stop being afraid,” Grug repeatedly tells the clan, emphasising his points with cave paintings of untimely death and destruction.

Eep dares to rebel against her old man and during a forbidden night-time excursion she encounters a nomadic caveboy called Guy (Ryan Reynolds), who tells her that the end of the world is nigh.

Soon after, the Croods’ cave is destroyed by a massive earthquake that heralds the disintegration of the landmass into continents.

The Croods join Guy and his pet sloth Belt on the expedition through uncharted territory in search of a new place to call home.

En route, Grug confronts his fears about losing his children and Eep fans the flames of romance with Guy.

‘The Croods’ is inoffensive, effervescent family fun that strikes a pleasing balance between romance and adventure.

Each member of the titular family has distinct personality traits and De Micco and Sanders construct a nice running gag about Grug wishing his mother would shift her mortal coil.

A half-crocodile, half-canine baby called Douglas provides the film with its one laugh-out-loud moment of accidental tragedy.

Energetic vocal performances match the rollicking visuals and the film-makers resolve various conflicts with an impressive final flourish that suggests this might not be the last we see of Grug and his bonkers brood.

Star Rating: 3/5

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