New ‘Croods’ is colorful, comfy

But cartoon sequel is less funny than original

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Arriving seven years after 2013’s “The Croods” and in theaters in time for pandemic Thanksgiving, “The Croods: A New Age” is a surprisingly decent sequel.

The concept was never promising. The name “crood,” which sounds like “crude” as in “crude humor,” sounds like a sure invitation to a barrage of tired, bathroom-type jokes. The thick, thuggish-looking character design was also off-putting.

But — like the odd characters in the animated features “Early Man” and “Missing Link” — in motion, and with voices, the characters proceed in smooth, stretch-and-squash fashion, and they’re graceful and lovable. The sequel continues the look, and also has a bright, bursting color scheme and an imaginative array of flora and fauna.

Creatures like kanga-dillos, land sharks, and what appear to be trees that suddenly take flight like huge dragonflies, populate the landscape.

The story actually flows logically from the 2013 movie. “The Croods: A New Age” begins with a brief flashback, showing the backstory of Guy (Ryan Reynolds).

Losing his parents to a tar pit, Guy’s mother tells him to move toward the light and search for “his tomorrow.” He does that, moving and moving, finding his constant companion “Belt,” growing up and meeting the Crood family. But he still hasn’t found his “tomorrow.”

Guy and Eep (Emma Stone) are in a typical teen romance, unable to stop making googoo eyes at each other, sneaking kisses or baby-talking. One night, Eep’s overprotective father Grug (Nicolas Cage) overhears them talking about finding a place of their own.

About that time, they stumble upon a sanctuary, with gardens of food and a tall fence to keep out pesky predators. It’s the home of the more highly-evolved Betterman family, Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran).

The Bettermans knew Guy’s family, and they accept him with open arms.

The Croods — mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), Gran (Cloris Leachman) and Eep’s brother Thunk (Clark Duke) — also are invited to stay and enjoy the luxuries like showers and soft beds.

Thunk becomes entranced by a window, and sits and “watches” it. Later, in a parody of our own technological obsession, he finds a smaller, handheld “window” and stares at it full-time.

The Bettermans want Guy to stay and couple up with their daughter. At the same time, Grug doesn’t want to lose his daughter. And Eep and Guy get into their first big fight over the sanctuary and whether its wonders are really for them.

An additional threat, an unknown creature that must be plied with bananas to keep it away, turns the movie into a chase/rescue story.

Happily, makers of “The Croods: A New Age” show the men being kidnapped and the women banding together like warriors to save the day. Even though the movie likely was written half a decade ago, it perfectly anticipated the #MeToo movement.

Weirdly, the original film’s writer-directors Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders were replaced for his film, although DeMicco retains a “story by” credit.

Joel Crawford, a longtime Dreamworks artist, makes his feature directorial debut, and the writers are animation veterans with varying experience (though all seem to have worked on “The Lego Ninjago Movie”). Regardless, the new movie isn’t quite as funny as the original, which had John Cleese as a co-writer.

The primitive warrior family being out-of-step with the more evolved inventor family is the basis of many jokes, but like Thunk’s “window” obsession, they’re more amusing little observations than all-out laughs. The funniest stuff is, oddly, the more slapsticky humor.

Yet “The Croods: A New Age” still works, thanks to its excellent appealing voice cast and the gorgeous fluidity of movement and colors. It settles into a painlessly comfortable groove where the concerns of the characters become the point of interest.

If families choose to emerge from their own caves this Thanksgiving to go to the movies, they could do worse.

REVIEW

The Croods: A New Age

★★★

Starring: Voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener

Written by: Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan

Directed by: Joel Crawford

Rated: PG

Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

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