In action flicks, 3D is employed ostensibly to heighten the viewer’s visual experience by presenting a picture whose depth and perspective accords more closely with reality. But for me, the opposite occurs – the result looks disarmingly artificial. In animation, however, 3D comes into its own, creating the imagery of floating, kaleidoscopic, multifaceted realms that never cease to delight and astound.
It is certainly the case in this little beauty, co-written and directed by Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders (the latter being also responsible for the similarly big-hearted How To Train Your Dragon. Things could not have got off to a better start when a score of ankle-biters sitting nearby sang along with the otherwise over-exposed Honda ad – ‘anything you can do, I can do better…’, and a celebratory mood overtook us all as we were taken back to prehistoric times and the cave of the dysfunctional Croods.
Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) has impressed upon his family of Ugga (Catherine Keener), their lame-brained son Thunk (Clark Duke), adventurous teen daughter Eep (Emma Stone) and Granny (Cloris Leachman) that it is an unquestioning fear of anything new that has helped them survive the constant threats of a hostile environment. Eep, however, wants to get out of the cave and reach for the sun, and when she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds), everybody, willing or not, is embarked on a journey into the future.
The theme of generational rebellion and change, of boldly confronting the unknown, is an old chestnut, but it is one that surely will not go astray at a time when the addictive grip of social media is, contrary to its own inestimable self-regard, locking us tightly into a wireless, worldwide uniformity. The drawings are beautiful – Eep is quite the young hornbag – the characterisations archetypal but consistent, the humour sharp and the soundtrack never fails to hit the right note. As Grug faces his ultimate challenge, Guy calls for ‘romance, drama, sincerity and movement’. The movie delivers them all.