Our husband and wife reviewing team quibble over The Croods: A New Age.
Zanna's rating of the movie: 4
Greg's rating of the movie: 2
Zanna's rating of Greg's review of the movie: 1
Predictably, the kids were uncritical. "Good" they all said afterwards, when asked for their thoughts. Zanna then asked which bit they liked most, at which point I felt compelled to intervene, pointing out that the question was too closed and imposing instead my own suggestion: "What did you like about it?" All the kids replied with one word answers, so all I achieved with that was to make Zanna angry. Casper (3) liked the punch monkeys, which are creatures that communicate with each other using an elaborate pattern of physical violence. This was predictable, given the frequency with which he says to me: "I'm going to punch you in the balls," then does so. I don't remember who the girls liked.
The movie tells a fairly conventional culture clash story, following a prehistoric family living a rugged life of lack, staring down the near-constant threat of death, and eventually stumbling upon an ostensible utopia - safe and filled with food and conveniences - belonging to a family of more evolutionarily advanced humans who, boringly and predictably, turn out to have a lot to learn from the more "primitive" species. The movie's not totally without charm - it has a few laughs and other moments where it's not impenetrably pointless. I thought there was going to be a lesbian love story at one stage, but it quickly petered out into predictable heteronormativity. It wouldn't have taken much rewriting and would have made for a vastly superior movie: more morally complex, more thoughtful, more evocative of the questions of evolution it largely fails to explore, more challenging of the stereotypes it otherwise mostly perpetuates. It made me wonder if and when we might see a same-sex love story in a major children's film and why we haven't already.
As they do with most family movies, the action and "jokes" congeal into a bland stew of overly familiar moral messages about the importance of putting one's family and community ahead of oneself. Not that I'm arguing with those messages necessarily, because my children are yet to absorb them, but couldn't we mix things up a little, celebrating - for example - the moral complexity of the selfish renegade who achieves great things for humanity at the expense of her family? Life might be a rich tapestry but all Hollywood offers our kids is dull reproductions. It's no wonder they're only capable of talking in monosyllables.
Children are easy to please. Give them their own container of overly salted popcorn and an adult-sized seat they don't have to share with siblings and they're happy as clams. Which is to say our kids are young enough to enjoy any movie in a cinema and thus their review of Croods 2 is basically irrelevant. Still, to be polite, I asked them what their favourite part was. Before they could answer, Greg condescendingly interrupted with: "No, that question's too closed. What did you like about it?" Not only did his perfectly articulated question elicit one-word answers, he doesn't even remember what those answers were. Hey Dingleberry, the girls liked the baby spider wolf.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Greg did accomplish one thing with his bulldozering though - he annoyed me enough that I will now pillory his review.
His assertion that there was a moment when he thought it was going to become a lesbian love story on the surface sounds progressive, open-minded, even intelligent, but let me explain what was really going on there: two female characters who could've been framed as rivals for the affections of the same man, instead form a sweet friendship, a sisterhood if you will. But so conditioned by mainstream porn is my husband that as this is unfolding on screen, his neanderthal male brain is chanting "Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" which is then followed up by self-righteous back-patting for his powers of inclusivity.
He's right that it's hard to call this film progressive, because it tends to laugh at its bucking of stereotypes. There are some central role reversals: Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, is physically superior, the protector and provider for Ryan Reynolds' Guy; the final showdown sees the women swoop in to save their dudes in distress from certain death; and the two dad characters form an unlikely and physically affectionate friendship - the film's true homoerotic content - but it is played purely for laughs, with the song "I think I love you (so what am I so afraid of)" playing as they bask in their newfound bond. I know: we progressives are never satisfied.
The truth is, I really liked this film. It was funny, the central love story was sweet, it contained a narrative about humans bringing about their own demise through greed and selfishness, and none of our kids needed to go to the toilet or cried once. It turns out I, unlike my husband, am pretty easy to please too.
The Croods: A New Age will be in cinemas from Boxing Day.