Sometimes a sequel can elevate an entire movie series, and that is certainly the case with The Croods: A New Age. The surprisingly hilarious and uplifting tale brings back the world’s “First Family.”
The film has them emerging from their Cavemen and Cavewomen habitat and entering a whole new landscape of what the clan thought was possible in this world when they meet the Bettermans.
The first thing that the entire Croods universe has going for it is stellar casting.
Nicolas Cage could not be a better choice to portray the family patriarch, Grug. Catherine Keener dazzles as the Mrs. (Ugga), while Emma Stone is every bit the teenage cave girl with her Eep. Filling out the family is Clark Duke as young teenager Thunk, and Cloris Leachman as Gran.
In the first film, they met a guy named, well… Guy. Ryan Reynolds is sublime as Guy, and in The Croods: A New Age, he gets to further expand his character’s arc.
We learn more about his backstory when the Croods have to head out and find a new home, hopefully away from predators and other unsavory creatures that would have them for lunch or dinner.
Grug stumbles on what he believes is an oasis. It is a walled community with rows and rows of food growing in the fields behind it. He quickly claims the land for the family when suddenly someone else shows up, the people who already live there—the Bettermans.
Who knew there was already a family living there? They are more “new age,” aka a more evolved species of human. Yes, comedy does ensue—big time.
Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) voices Phil while Leslie Mann (This Is 40) provides the vocal talents behind his wife Hope. They have a daughter who is Eep’s age, Dawn (The Last Jedi’s Kelly Marie Tran).
Both Phil and Hope provide a spark of light that permeates every frame they possess. That is thanks to the stars behind the voices but also the screenwriters who have penned a couple of characters that represent everything the Croods are not.
Seems the Bettermans know Guy, from the past, and wondered what happened to him when his parents disappeared. Cue a Guy tug-of-war between our two families!
The Croods first hit screens in 2013 and was enjoyable and entertaining but not a film that would ever scream “sequel.” Yet, what we have with this sequel is something truly special. It makes the first film better by seeing it as providing the landscape for this world. We’ve gotten all the exposition out of the way.
We’ve gotten all the cave family stuck in the dark ages tropes under our belt. What is now explored is always a great narrative—when a collective of characters is challenged with unforeseen obstacles and yes, even to feel like a proverbial fish out of water.
That is exactly what filmmakers Joel Crawford and his team of screenwriters have accomplished. Their art department hit it out of the park as well. Visually, this thing is a marvel with colors one never knew existed.
The film moves with a pitch-perfect pace that befits a filmmaker with much more experience than what Crawford possesses with his big screen debut. It is a supremely fun ride and there are multiple reasons why.
The Croods cast is put through an Olympic-level course of challenges that each must grapple with. They say, evolve or die. But when it comes to the cave family of the Croods, what is imploring them to change might not take and could find them heading back out into the dangerous and deathly unknown.
Grug and Phil have Alpha-male issues from the start but could possibly find common ground to forge a friendship—maybe. Although Grug doesn’t want Guy taking his daughter away to start a life together, he’s not sure he wants Phil to have him back in the landscape of those “evolved folks.”
It’s not just because of pride. He sees something in his daughter when she’s with Guy and deep down wants what’s best for her—even if it rips his heart right out of his chest.
Then there are the wives who could not be more drastically different. Hope is quite the domestic house queen while Ugga is raw, rugged, and beyond physically strong which leaves Hope taken aback on more than one occasion.
Eep and Dawn bond over their shared feeling of isolation and being trapped—Eep by a cave, Dawn by the walls that she’s never gone past in her entire life. It’s a fascinating pairing, and Tran and Stone just slay it as teenage girlfriends when neither has had one their entire lives.
It’s adorable, endearing and above all else feels as real as any live-action pairing.
These two families could not be more different. Yet, this is a world of thousands and thousands of years ago. As such, amongst the killer plants, killer predators and animals that run the gamut of insane to utterly bizarre, the camaraderie of another family is above all else seen as a plus. Or is it?
The Bettermans are a step above the Croods on the evolutionary ladder. It is a fascinating premise for a narrative-long animated family comedy that is not only inhabited with a compelling story but is also filled with life lessons for the little ones.
Don’t be surprised if they fill you with questions about life during that time period for days on end after the credits have rolled.
Dinklage and Mann are pure gold. The Game of Thrones actor plays Phil like a new age guru from 2020, but firmly embedded with prehistoric sensibilities. He can go from empathetic to utterly panicked on a dime. Clearly, this world is too much for him, so that’s why this walled tree abode that he built is his saving grace.
Mann, meanwhile, is one part gracious host and another part protective mama who resists the ways of her new houseguests who may or may not become permanent. Her relationship with Keener’s Ugga is priceless as each teaches the other about aspects of life that are foreign to the other. It’s a nice touch.
Whereas Grug and Phil may be competitive, Ugga and Hope find synchronicity. Now, what does that say about the genders? That’s a whole different essay!
Filmmaker Joel Crawford has just the right touch for the sequel. The ebbs and flows that he paints with his camera add up to a canvas that is electric with mind-blowing colors and creatures from the earth’s past that time has forgotten and a few that they created.
It all adds up to a joyous family adventure that also possesses priceless lessons about how we treat one another and how at the end of the day, we all bleed red, feel pain and most importantly, love.
The Croods: A New Age will be available in theaters on November 25 and will be available On Demand at home in the coming weeks.
Joel D. Amos is the Senior Editor of The Movie Mensch and writes film reviews for TV Fanatic. He has been an entertainment journalist for two decades now, focusing on penning reviews for film, television and streaming content of all kinds. He also has conducted hundreds of interviews with stars as varied as Harrison Ford to Elton John and Angelina Jolie. Joel is a founding member of the Hollywood Critics Association and in his free time, is all about his family.