PLOT: The Croods are back to face their most challenging quest yet, a modern prehistoric family that is more evolved. The question is, will the two families be able to set aside their differences in order to face the dangers that constantly surround them in these wild prehistoric times.

REVIEW: In 2013, Dreamworks Animation brought audiences a brand new prehistoric family to the big screen with THE CROODS. The film, starring Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, and Cloris Leachman, connected to modern audiences in a big way. While we did not get a sequel initially, the caveman family did come to the small screen – minus Cage and company – with Dawn of the Croods from 2015-2017. And here in 2020, the nutty stone age family is back for a brand new adventure, one that manages to retain the charm from the original film in a surprisingly sweet new story. THE CROODS: A NEW AGE brings back the original characters, with a few fresh faces to add to this enjoyable animated fable.

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Not much has changed for the Crood family. They still sleep in a massive ball together, and they still face a series of dangerous beasts. However, this time they come face to face with their deadliest threat yet, another family they discover thanks to Guy (Ryan Reynolds). You see, Guy has always been searching for what his parents called “Tomorrow.”  Well, he appears to find it when they come across Hope and Phil Betterman (Leslie Mann and Peter Dinklage) and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). The Betterman’s have adapted and modernized their lifestyle, and since they were friends of Guy’s parents, he instantly connects with them, especially their daughter. Creating a bit of chaos with the Croods, the two families must face off against each other and the crazy world of monsters and mayhem that threaten their lives daily.

It’s been a while since I’ve sat down with the original film, but there’s one thing that stood out. The first act felt a bit tedious and slightly dull.  A NEW AGE has that same issue. The film introduces us to a young Guy as he must say goodbye to his parents. And then, it’s the usual antics of this wacky caveman family. Thankfully, once the story begins to settle, THE CROODS’ new adventure is an entertaining flight of fancy that examines the struggles between the old and the new. The Betterman clan has learned to not only adjust but make life easier in a simple yet challenging time. The Crood family, however, is happy to live the life they’ve become accustomed to living. The dichotomy between the two families adds to the humor in ways you’d expect, but it still manages to bring a sense of fun and energy to this charming and sweet sequel.

The original cast members have settled well into their roles, and they all make a welcome return. As far as new cast members, Mann, Dinklage, and Tran are all perfectly cast. Reynolds once again delivers, and the combo of Cage and Keener is still as strong as ever. Yet what was the main draw in the first film remains the same; Emma Stone is an utter delight as Eep. Even when the character gets sidelined by the addition of a new teenage girl, Stone still manages to rise about it and bring vulnerability and humor to her work. And to say that she and Reynolds give off sparks would be an understatement. The wordplay between the two is so delightful that even older members of the audience will enjoy the sweet nature of their lighthearted romance.

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Directed by Joel Crawford, A NEW AGE is an impressively animated feature with bright colors and a few creatively constructed visuals. One sequence involving “wolf spiders” manages to turn creepy into cuddly almost immediately – and don’t even get me started on the adorable “punch monkeys” who are painfully adorable and kinda vicious. There is much to admire in the inventive nature of how the filmmakers came up with the prehistoric horrors The Croods face.  While the story may sound like it’s just a family affair, it still manages to bring on the adventurous spirit of living in the stone age. The “land sharks” were a favorite of mine as well. In some ways, this sequel stands above its predecessor with its terrific animation and a relevant story that can easily connect to both young and old.

THE CROODS: A NEW AGE suffers some of the trappings that the first film did. While the animation is fantastic, as is the cast, it takes a bit for the film to find its balance. However, once it does, this sequel manages to maintain the charms presented in the original. And once again, the stand out here is Emma Stone. The actress brings humor and heart to Eep, and the chemistry that she shares with Reynolds is undeniable. If you were a fan of the 2013 film, you’re likely to find much to appreciate in this. It may not rise to the heights of other Dreamworks Animation features like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, but THE CROODS still bring a sense of wonder and joy to the world. And sometimes that little bit of joy is all the satisfaction you’ll need. 

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