Friday, March 22, 2013

I Just Got Back From Seeing The Croods!


Here are my scrambled thoughts, in no particular order:

(WARNING: SPOILERS APLENTY!)

It's funnier than we've been led to believe.

Yes, there are plenty of the "I call them..." jokes from the trailers, but there are also a lot of smaller, sometimes silent jokes that are EVEN BETTER. Everything with Sandy is an A+. Eep's facial expressions (both in favor of Guy and in frustration with her father) are hilarious -- cartoonishly exaggerated, yet wholly relatable. Guy is the PERFECT comedic 'straight man.' He spends much of the film flinching, ducking and trying to hide his fear and confusion with his new found companions. Sure, he's cool and stylish and intelligent, but whenever he's surrounded by (or trapped by) (or having the life squeezed out of him by) the Croods clan, he's reduced to a wiggly, twitchy, uncomfortable ball of raw nerves.

It's more emotional than we've been led to believe.

Remember the first trailer? The one that was all awe and spectacle? Remember how emotionally engaging that was, how it put a lump in your throat and a pit in your stomach and some helium in your head? Well, the actual film is like that...times a hundred. The Croods is not afraid to go serious, to go sad, to go downright heart-wrenching. There are three moments near the end of the film where you or someone with you will cry. THREE! Don't get me wrong. The Croods also has plenty of incredibly uplifting moments. There's a whole montage made up of nothing but the Croods' happy, new experiences that will have you smiling from ear to ear. And the tender moments? The ones between Grug and Eep, Grug and Ugga, and Eep and Gran? They will make you reach out and hold the hand of the loved one sitting beside you. Sure, they're cartoon characters. But the emotions being portrayed, the familial struggles being enacted, the love and loss and fear and desire -- they are all palpably real.

It's BEAUTIFUL.

Small clips and trailer snippets will do little to prepare you for the stunning scenery on display in The Croods. Animated films usually fit into one of two categories: Capital-A Artistic or super-duper-silly. You've got your Studio Ghibli, and you've got your Looney Tunes. The Croods is both. I already told you how funny it was. But my goodness -- it's GORGEOUS. Every new environment that the Croods enter is an eye-popping display of rainbow colors and unleashed imaginations. This is a fast-paced movie, one that doesn't linger on any one thing for too long. But if the filmmakers had wanted to, they could have easily sat for half the film in any one of these vibrant vistas and the audience would have never gotten bored by what was onscreen. You know how a lot of times there is a huge gap between the preproduction art and the stuff that finally makes it up onto the screen? Not so with the backgrounds in this film. What's in the movie is every bit as stunning as what's in The Art of The Croods.

Chunky the Death Cat is just as adorable as you'd imagined.

In fact, one of my few gripes with the film is that there should have been MORE CHUNKY in it. Then again, I once spent a week eating nothing but Lucky Charms, so maybe I'm not all that rational when it comes to rationing out the good stuff.

Nic Cage is PERFECT.

Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Clark Duke, Chris Sanders -- they're all wonderful in respective voice roles. But Nic Cage is exceptionally good. So good, in fact, that you'll rarely (if ever) find yourself thinking that it's even Nic Cage! He gives a seamless, selfless performance, imbuing the character of Grug with every possible emotional nuance, while doing nothing that would call attention to the Hollywood star behind the mic. You believe in Grug immediately and without interruption. Nic Cage is hilarious and heart-breaking in the role, and I could not imagine anyone else doing it half as well.

Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco did NOT disappoint.

Congratulations, Chris and Kirk (and everyone else involved)! You did it! You made a magical, memorable, I-can't-wait-to-rewatch-it-as-soon-as-possible film. Me and my gal, Mishka, repeatedly laughed, gasped, and cried while watching it. We had a half hour drive coming home from the theater, and we talked about nothing else the entire time. Hell, we were still talking about it as we entered the house! After spending thirteen months blogging about the film, I had some pretty high expectations. As the film's release date drew near, I even began to get a little scared -- What if The Croods doesn't do it for me? I am delighted (and relieved!) to say that THE CROODS IS WONDERFUL. Truly, truly wonderful. This past year has been full of Croods-related highs for me. Seeing the film was yet another.

THANK-YOU, CHRIS AND KIRK!

A few of my favorite moments:

The long, silent scene of Eep chasing the flame.

Sandy picking up Belt and holding him like a puppy.

Sandy's 'shoes.'

Ugga thanking Guy.

The sadness and self-doubt in Grug's face as he eavesdrops on his wife attempting to defend him.

Absolutely EVERYTHING that Grug says while stuck in the tarpit.

Grug painting the picture of his family.

Grug: "Hey, I know that guy!"

Gran and Eep's moment on the edge of the cliff.

Eep jumping into her father's arms and shouting, "I love you!" (Yeah, I teared up just typing that!)

5 comments:

  1. I really loved the scene with chunky & Grug in the cave when chunky blew out the flame!!

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    1. And then when Chunky falls asleep... :)

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  2. You have no idea how long the past five days were. Well, unless you own a calendar, in which case you could make an informed guess. But it wasn't until today that I finally saw the film and can resume reading this blog without feeling guilty as if I was reading it under false pretenses.

    To add to your observations above, there were some things that surprised me even after all the advance coverage. For one thing, the characters were all better actors than I was expecting, in the animation sense of the word. So much of the narrative was sold through their utterly convincing facial expressions. We've never seen this much subtlety of performance in a computer animated film before. Forget the Uncanny Valley; the whole cast jumps over it and reaches the other side with no problem.

    Another thing I wasn't expecting was how strongly the film endorses learning and exploration and scientific inquiry. It's not the slightest bit equivocal on that point: the film says, our world can and must be understood, survival depends on learning about the world and how it works and inventing ways of coping with it. It would have been so easy for a dumber film to give Guy a comeuppance, to have him be a smartass who "learns the error of his ways" and comes to follow the alpha male in a cautionary tale about not getting arrogant. There are loads of films like that, and in other hands this might have been one of them. But it isn't. Guy is not the stupid person's idea of what a smart person is like. If anything, he's the smart person's idea of what he or she wants to be like. He's not condescending, he's full of excitement and just wants to share these amazing things in his head with other people.

    Also, while Guy has been thinking about this stuff longer so he's ahead of the others, his conception of the world is flawed too (like his disappointment when they fail to reach the sun) and the others aren't far behind him once they've seen his example. It's not some elitist story about a know-it-all genius surrounded by morons. All of them have the potential to learn and be smarter if they're willing to try. I'm cool with kids getting that message.

    I'm always hypercritical of movie screenplays but in this entire film there was only one line that bugged me even a little -- and even then it wasn't a case of the line being wrong, merely that it was too on the nose and the scene would have been stronger if they hadn't come out and said it so bluntly. That's one line out of the whole thing, but even the most perfect tapestry has to have one tiny flaw, right?

    Now I've got that off my chest, time to get caught up on all the other posts you've done here in the past week...

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  3. And while doing that, I realized too late that you set aside another post to be the official comments thread. Oops!

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    1. Bensam, you're getting bumped -- TO THE MAIN PAGE!

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