The successful Ice Age franchise has proved animations with a pre-historic edge appeal to kids, although that's hardly news to those of us who remember The Flintstones. DreamWorks Animations has given this a fresh twist, and kids can expand on their paleontological knowledge by getting to know the first modern family, the Croods.
Aptly pronounced as Crudes, this sloping headed family of hunter-gatherers live in a cave, only venturing out in daylight when they need food.
The Crood family motto is "never not be afraid", something their leader and dad, Grug (Cage), is very big on.
The opening sequence of a family breakfast hunt is enough to win over both parents and kids. Crouched on all fours, the Croods tackle this mission like playing a game of gridiron, everyone has a role to play and when one family member goes down another takes over, even Granny pitches in. And potential prey should worry when the cry goes up: "Release the baby!'
Eep (Stone) is the eldest of the three children and the centre of the story. Unlike her father, Eep has natural curiosity about the world and this leads her to meet Guy (Reynolds), a more evolved human who tells her the world is coming to an end. When an earthquake destroys the Croods' family cave the family is forced out of their comfort zone, and follow Guy on his journey to a safer place.
It's a little like Ice Age meets Avatar. The Crood family's world falls apart around them as they discover a natural world filled with imaginative and colourful prehistoric creatures and plants. They're also introduced to fire and shoes, the concept of using your brain to have an idea, while also managing to invent the hug (aww ...). Although it appears some things have, apparently, been around since the dawn of man - like mother-in-law jokes.
Emma Stone's raspy voice is perfect for Eep, a squat young lady with a mop of unruly hair and an athleticism not often seen in animated female characters. Her typical tempestuous teenage relationship with her father provides the emotional core of this story, and Stone and Cage are good together. Others get rather less complex characters to work with; Catherine Keener, in particular, is wasted in her rather straight mother role.
Directed by the team behind How To Train Your Dragon, it's an interesting mix of a clever (if familiar) idea, genuinely funny moments, great animation and slapstick humour, often featuring actual sticks.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds
Director: Chris Sanders, Kirk De Micco
Running time: 98 mins
Verdict: More colourful, fun prehistoric entertainment