Saturday, March 30, 2013
Not Quite Crood
I happened to catch the first big animated film of 2013 just a few hours ago... DreamWorks' The Croods!
To start off, the animation in this film is jaw-dropping. Not only does it look great, but the whole design of the film is just flat out creative. Prehistoric Earth is different presented in a far more colorful way than the usual, from the unusual-looking rock formations to the vibrant vegetation. The creatures that we see in this film are just awesome... The designs of all the beasts that the titular family encounter on their journey are very nice... Again, it's just one really great-looking film. Everything in it is just eye candy, and it's the kind of eye candy that only an animated film can give you. Thumbs up to the traditionally animated opening sequence!
The story? It's decent enough. It's not exactly shattering or innovative, it's the standard kind of story where the father fears anything "new" and prefers to stick with the tried and true. I think they did a pretty good job with the father-daughter story, and it didn't really come off as the typical "parent is overprotective of the adventurous child" story though it wasn't exactly a fresh new spin either. It was harmless for the most part and it works, it stays consistent throughout though. Most of the characters are likable too.
The family is well-defined and the father's actions make sense as he does have every good reason to be afraid. That's all well done and yes, there really isn't too much to the story but there isn't too little either. It's decidedly very simplistic. I was initially not too sure whether I'd like the leads because from watching the trailers, I just wasn't too fond of their designs. I felt that they were a little too exaggerated, but once you get halfway through the film, you get pretty used to them.
So is the writing any good? Well... It needs a little work. The first half of the film has very uneven pacing, making the film feel more like a kids film than a family film. It had its hyperactive moments, but they weren't quite well balanced with the slower moments. The pacing of the first half can best be described as... Fast! Slow! Fast! Slow! Fast! Slow!
The second half is far better, where the film finally starts taking a real breather and allows for some development to be made on Grugg and his daughter Eep. The other characters, aside from Guy, really only function as comic relief more than anything. The humor ranges from clever to forced. There is a lot of slapstick, but not all of it really works. At many times, the slapstick seems to come out of nowhere... Again, this is a result of the pacing. The film has a hard time finding a mood in the first half, feeling like a kids film. The second half feels like a family film, with less random humor and more focus on the story.
The film was directed by Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco. Sanders is usually renowned for his sense of storytelling and his quirky creativity. His creativity definitely shines in this film, like I said, it's wonderful to look at and there are sequences where you find yourself immersed in this world that they created. These are the better moments of the film where the story actually has a point, rather than taking a backseat to jokes. I feel that there was definitely a clash of styles with this film, as Kirk DeMicco doesn't have such a hot track record. My theory is that Sanders wanted quirkiness and emotional stuff (much like his other two films, Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon) while DeMicco wanted jokes and pacing that's suited for kids after they've downed a bowl of candy.
A lot of the humor is either slapstick or Flinestones-esque spins on modern things, some of those jokes were better than most of the stuff that was on display in that show. The photo joke was particularly funny along with a few other things, while some were just cringeworthy. Some of the humor concerning the different animals was well-handled too, particularly the bits with the saber-toothed tiger. The humor is overall a mixed bag, something I was somewhat expecting since DreamWorks is still figuring out how to use humor and what kind to use.
So The Croods is basically half good family film / half "hit-or-miss kids film trying to appeal to adults". It's not a bad film, it's just wildly uneven at parts. Messy first half, very good second half... The Croods is a fun little flick at best with truly impressive visuals. It's nice lightweight fare with a little extra. Recommended!