Any movie that calls itself The Croods -- even an animated one -- would seem to be threatening to wear its snot on its sleeve. Yet that's not the case here, as this feature has enough "scary action" (as per the faint-of-heart MPAA) to warrant a PG rating yet not enough Hangover-style scatology to merit anything stronger. This is strictly a toon tale for the whole family, meaning that anyone on the lookout for a comeback by Fritz the Cat creator Ralph Bakshi (MIA since 1997) will have to keep waiting and hoping.
No, The Croods is exactly the sort of animated fare we receive on a monthly basis from Hollywood. It's bright and bleeds color; it's anachronistic in spots, meaning that it will probably date rather quickly; it tries to locate new visuals to justify that additional 3-D expense; and it espouses all the usual messages of living life to the fullest and becoming your own person and blah blah blah. On the scale of such efforts, it's pretty good, with an engaging second half making up for a tedious opening stretch.
The Croods are a family consisting of six prehistoric cave dwellers, with the overly cautious dad Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) constantly butting heads with his exuberant teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone). A natural disaster forces the clan members out of the cave and into the outside world, where they find an ally in the practical Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and enemies in all sorts of menacing critters (most strikingly, a flock of bird-piranhas). Despite the selection of suitable voice actors for these roles, the characters are only borderline interesting; what makes the movie work is the attention to the details that surround them, particularly some oddball animal friends as well as a beautifully rendered landscape full of both wonder and danger. It's when it's bringing this world to life that The Croods is at its most refined.