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Published: Friday, March 22, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

'Croods' fast-paced, fun without being too low-brow

  • "The Croods" features (from left) Belt the sloth, voiced by Chris Sanders; Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds; Eep, voiced by Emma Stone; Ugga, vo...

    Dreamworks Animation

    "The Croods" features (from left) Belt the sloth, voiced by Chris Sanders; Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds; Eep, voiced by Emma Stone; Ugga, voiced by Catherine Keener, holding Sandy, voiced by Randy Thom; Thunk, voiced by Clark Duke; and Gran, voiced by Cloris Leachman.

  • Caveman clan daughter Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, is curious about life outside the cave in "The Croods."

    Dreamworks Animation

    Caveman clan daughter Eep, voiced by Emma Stone, is curious about life outside the cave in "The Croods."

Nobody said evolution was easy. Just look at the Crood family, a caveman clan; every day is like re-inventing the wheel. Or in this case, inventing it.
"The Croods" is an animated feature about a prehistoric family living in fear of the dark and unaware of the uses of fire. Ah, but their rambunctious daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone) is one of those curious types who just have to know what life is like outside the cave.
And that's where this fun movie takes us, as the Croods are uprooted from their safety zone and forced into an unfamiliar world that looks vaguely like outtakes from "Avatar." A journey story, a little love interest and many cute animals lie in the Croods' future.
While "The Croods" is not a Disney movie -- it's faster and more aggressive than that -- it does carry the obligatory themes of life experience. In this case, it's about the clan's father, Grug (Nicolas Cage), learning to shake off his fear-based attitude and embrace the unknown.
A decent theme, and a lively execution, lively enough so you're not too often hammered over the head with it. And hammering the head is an appropriate image for this movie's style, which emphasizes how indestructible its characters are by flinging them across canyons and dropping them from cliffs.
Directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders have clearly watched a lot of old Warner Bros. cartoons, and the ghosts of Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote are here in spirit. This thing has real zing and some of the physical gags are very funny.
If you cast Cage as a (literally) low-brow caveman, you can expect some eccentric vocal readings. He mostly plays it straight, but there are some definite Cage-isms mixed in there, to good effect.
Catherine Keener voices his long-suffering wife, and Ryan Reynolds is a human in the next stage of evolution who takes a liking to Eep. Clark Duke does the voice of the dim-witted Crood son, and the cranky Grandma is played by -- hey, how'd you guess Cloris Leachman?
The voices are funny and the movie's got an expert sense of timing. The slick animation is occasionally startling (that giant saber-tooth cat creature can really haul) even if it feels generally superficial; I saw it previewed in 3-D, which is clever but not showy.
"The Croods" doesn't dig deep, and it doesn't mean to. This ain't Pixar, but it's an enjoyable romp through a backward, knuckle-dragging era that ought to be over in another thousand years or so.

"The Croods"
3 stars
A fun animated romp set in prehistory, where a caveman (voiced by Nicolas Cage) argues with his rebellious daughter (Emma Stone) about adventures outside the cave. Not exactly deep, but the comedy timing is good and the physical humor is a throwback to old Warner Bros. cartoons.
Rated: PG for subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood Seven, Cinebarre, Edmonds, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Olympic, Stanwood, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade, Oak Harbor.
Story tags » Movies

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