The animation in The Croods may utilize the latest CGI technology, but the character types and plot points are so archaic they could have been painted on the walls at Lascaux. From the directors behind the superior How to Train Your Dragon, Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, the film takes the point of view of a fiery young girl (voiced by Emma Stone) dealing with being a teenager in the Stone Age and living with her thick-browed and thick-headed family of troglodytes. A freak meeting with the slightly more evolved Guy, a swept-haired cavedude voiced by Ryan Reynolds, leads the whole clan on an adventure to escape the breakup of Pangaea.
They cross a series of lush settings that look more extraterrestrial than prehistoric; the backgrounds owe more than a passing nod to Avatar, whereas some of the odd hybridized fauna resemble the animated menagerie of 1973's Fantastic Planet. Nicolas Cage lends his voice to the group’s Cro-Mag pater familias, who has taught his kin to avoid danger at all costs and who fears he’s losing his daughter to Guy and his hip new high-tech gadget: fire. Unfortunately, a handful of adrenalizing sequences of Chuck Jones-style animated anarchy can’t make up for the eye-rolling jokes or the paint-by-numbers emotional beats. A running gag about an insufferable mother-in-law could have been taken straight from the modern-day cavemen on network sitcoms. It's all high-energy, but that energy could have been put to better use on a story that didn't feel quite so paleolithic. C+