CroodscoverGrade:  B+
Entire family:  Yes
Rated PG for “some scary action”
Dreamsworks Animation
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Featured audio: DTS-HD MA 7.1
Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UV copy

Dreamworks Animation has really been pushing Pixar lately, and they’ve done it again with “The Croods.” There are eye-popping allusions to “Avatar” and jaw-dropping sequences of cataclysmic clouds of rubble that rival any of the animation we’ve seen recently. Watching in HD especially, you come away from this caveman comedy feeling slightly awestruck by the visuals.

Pixar still leads in the department of narrative invention, though, as “The Croods” tells a familiar story of a teenage girl who wants to “break out” and lead a life apart from the cocoon-like existence her father has designed. When a boy her age comes into the picture, Dad responds to the threat with all the warmth of a saber-toothed tiger who has a thorn in his paw. His little girl is HIS little girl, and he’s not about to let that change.

But change is on the menu in “The Croods,” which is set in a fictional Pliocene era known as the “Croodaceous” period—a transitional time in the history of the earth when flaming asteroid showers, erupting volcanoes, and shifting geological planes tear the earth apart and thrust mountain ranges high above what used to be an ocean floor. And humans are ready to take a big (comic) step forward in the evolutionary chain. 

CroodsscreenGrug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) is a big, burly Neanderthal of a man with all brawn and no brains. He sees every change as a threat, and any unfamiliar sight or sound as a threat big enough to send them all back to the family cave, where they spend most of their time . . . for safety. His daughter, Eep (Emma Stone) is adventurous and wants something more. This isn’t living, she says. What’s the point? And so a quality-of-life theme emerges, with Eep determined to follow the sun and escape the perpetual darkness (and a little too much family closeness) of the cave she shares with her big dumb brother, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), her mother, Ugga (Catherine Keener), wild baby sibling Sandy (Randy Thom), and her feisty Gran (Cloris Leachman).

Enter Thunk (Clark Duke), a teenage orphan who’s full of ideas . . . like fire to cook and keep warm with, sea shell horns to communicate with, and the conviction that there’s always a new and better way. Naturally he and Eep hit it off, and that makes Grug hit the ceiling, whether he’s inside the cave or not.

The first act may be a little slow, but once this animated comedy gets rolling, it’s a rollicking good family movie with upbeat messages and a happy ending—with enough eye-popping peril to interest even the most jaded of your teen video gameplayers. It’s a nice combination of action, humor, and interesting “prehistoric” creatures.