Review: The Croods: A New Age
If there’s one thing Hollywood loves, it’s a sequel. Once the risk of investing in a new property has found audience favor—and the accompanying box-office success—then a sequel is almost sure to come. After grossing more than $587 million, a followup to DreamWorks’ 2013 The Croods was virtually cast in stone.
However, this prehistoric family had a somewhat challenging journey getting back to the screen. After the first film’s success, plans for The Croods: A New Age were announced in 2013, with original directors, Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders, intending on returning. But the film was cancelled in November 2016 after Universal acquired DreamWorks. The project was revived
with a new director, Joel Crawford, in 2017 with a planned release in November of that year. But after facing multiple delays, it finally debuted theatrically in the States on November 25, 2020, followed by a PVOD release on December 18, and available to digital retailers like Kaleidescape on February 9. (A physical 4K release is expected on February 23.) Despite all of these hurdles, the movie managed to gross nearly $150 million worldwide, and gathered favorable critics and audience scores of 77% and 94%, respectively.
While you could certainly jump straight into New Age without watching the initial Croods—a brief opening scene does a quick job of catching you up—you’d be doing yourself a bit of a disservice and setting yourself up to miss some of the callback gags from Age. The first film introduces us to the Croods, a prehistoric family led by ultra-protective patriarch Grug (Nicholas Cage) that lives together and sleeps in a pile in a cave, spending every moment surviving some natural disaster and hunting food. Rebellious teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone) sneaks
NEW AGE AT A GLANCE
This 2020 sequel maintains the momentum of the 2013 mega-hit original, with terrific voice acting and eye-popping visuals enhancing the new adventures of the dysfunctional Stone Age family.
Visuals are like an entire 64-color box of Crayons projected on your screen. Sharp and vibrant, the constant digital eye candy will make your display look its best.
The immersive Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack is a little restrained during the first part of the film but really kicks in for the finale, which delivers truly deep and powerful bass.
out of the cave one night to explore when she encounters a more modern human boy, Guy (Ryan Reynolds), and after a disaster destroys their cave home, the clan sets out on a quest to find a new place to live.
The entire Crood family returns for this sequel including wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and Gran (Cloris Leachman). We pick up the story with the family still together, still dodging predators, hunting food, and sleeping in a pile, but the boy-girl relationship between Guy and Eep has evolved to the point where they are talking their tomorrow together, branching off and starting their own pack. This doesn’t sit well with Grug, who feels the pack is stronger—and safer—together.
One day, Grug discovers a huge wall, and on the other side discovers the far more evolved and on-the-nose named Betterman family, with husband Phil (Peter Dinklage), wife Hope (Leslie Mann), and daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). The Bettermans live in a fantastic treehouse with separate rooms for all, wear sandals, take showers, farm for food, use modern tools, and more. They also happen to have been friends with Guy’s parents, and feel like life would be better if the Croods left, but that Guy stayed behind “with his kind of people” to be with Dawn.
The middle part of the film is the humor of watching these two clashing lifestyles trying to relate to, and interacting with, one another, with Phil and Grug in an alpha-male clash, Eep finally having a friend her age with Dawn, who feels similarly trapped under her family’s strict “no going outside the wall” rule, and Guy struggling with wanting the better life with the Bettermans while still loving cavegirl Eep.
During the final act, the families have their inevitable reconciliation as they work together to overcome a common, banana-loving foe.
While the movie doesn’t really break any new ground, the story of class struggle, love, growing up, and family are all relatable, but what makes it so entertaining are the site gags and terrific voice acting. Reynolds has repeatedly proven his great comic voicing and timing (Exhibit A and B: Deadpool and Aviation Gin ads), and Stone certainly holds her own with her
exuberance. Ugga is perfect for Cage to unleash his over-the-top self, and Dinklage is also on point as Phil, reminding me a bit of his Mighty Eagle character from The Angry Birds.
Besides bringing some fresh content that your home theater has been craving, New Age flat-out looks fantastic in 4K HDR. Images are razor sharp, clear, and pristine. Nearly every frame bristles with vibrant colors, like the entire 64-color box of Crayons has been projected onto your screen, with colors changing dramatically in almost every scene. From the greens of foliage to the rich red-oranges of fire to the bright blues of water to glowing bioluminescence at night, colors explode with richness and vibrancy you don’t see outside of animation. Almost the entirety of the 95-minute runtime is digital eye candy, making your display look its best.
While New Age uses a less realistic animation style than some Pixar films like Soul or Toy Story 4, it is consistent throughout, and images never lack for texture and detail. Closeups show the care and detail in the animation, revealing individual strands of fur, scratches, fabric detail, and grain. Some banana outfits near the end show such texture you can clearly imagine what they would feel like.
The Kaleidescape download of the film also boasts an immersive Dolby TrueHD Atmos soundtrack. While the first half of the film is a bit restrained, there are still plenty of atmospherics spread around the room to put you into the jungle action. Whether wind or insect sounds, the echoes of the environment, or the musical score, the surround channels are called on to expand the soundstage. We also get a lot of far offscreen voice work and effects, with characters announcing their locations from surround channels around the room, or as someone—or something—is thrown into a far corner.. As we move into the film’s climax, we get a lot more excitement in the audio domain, especially with the subwoofer kicking in to deliver powerful low end. Also, be sure to stay through the opening part of the end credits to enjoy a Tenacious D version of “I Think I Love You.” Dialogue is also clear and easily understandable throughout.
The Croods: A New Age is an entertaining, family-friendly film that also happens to looks fantastic on a good display, making it an easy recommendation for your next movie night get together.
Probably the most experienced writer on custom installation in the industry, John Sciacca is co-owner of Custom Theater & Audio in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, & is known for his writing for such publications as Residential Systems and Sound & Vision. Follow him on Twitter at @SciaccaTweets and at johnsciacca.com.