DVD Release Date: October 1, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: March 22, 2013
Rating:  PG for some scary action
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Run Time:  98 minutes
Directors:  Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
Cast:  Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Chloris Leachman

Remember last year’s Brave, about a feisty teen girl who had relationship issues with her mother? This year the people who brought you How to Train Your Dragon offer the father/daughter version, set in the land before time.

The Croods are the last remaining “cave people” in their prehistoric world, all the other families having been killed off by various perils that are chronicled in a sprightly cave-painting-style forward. That the Croods have survived is a testament to the “hardest working father in history” Grug (voiced by Nicholas Cage). Grug is a good dad. Sure, he’s hyper-vigilant and extremely protective but his job is to protect and provide for his family and he’s determined to do so, even if it means spending weeks holed up with the family in their cave.

You can imagine how well this goes over with the family’s teenage daughter Eep (voiced by Emma Stone). Like Brave’s Princess Merida, Eep is a rebellious redhead who can’t stand the idea of following status quo. Grug wants his family to live by the “rules” painted on the cave wall. Eep wants to break the rules. It’s the same parent-teen conflict families have experienced since the dawn of time, heightened by the fact that Eep’s world seems to be ending. Literally. As the earth crumbles and volcanos erupt, the Croods’ cave home—the only place they’re ever truly safe—is destroyed. For a family whose motto is “never not be afraid” this could be devastating.

Fortunately for the Croods, they’re not quite as alone as they thought. Eep stumbles across Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), a prehistoric teen heart throb whose quick wits and creative ideas help save the day. But if Guy is the hero of the hour, where does that leave Grug? Will he lose his daughter to this new “guy” or learn to embrace change and lead his family on a new adventure?

It’s nice to see a film that affirms the family unit. When the Croods venture out of their cave on a hunting trip, the whole family—including Eep’s mom, brother, baby sister, and Gran (the hilarious Chloris Leachman)—works together like a well-oiled machine. While Grug seems old-fashioned even for those days it’s made clear he’s doing his best to provide for his family. In fact, his character is as much the focus of the story as is Eep. When Grug is forced to make a sacrifice (not the Old Testament kind) to save his family it’s a heart-tugging moment that brought tears to more than one viewer’s eyes.

While the emotional story is just right, the physical one leans heavily towards Saturday morning cartoon fare. There’s plenty of slapstick comedy and the family overcomes some pretty amazing challenges with nary a scratch.  The Croods are in considerably better physical shape than today’s families, but even they shouldn’t be expected to fall off a cliff and survive.

The Dreamworks animation is first-rate, especially the scenery and “animals” found in this lost world. They all but steal the show, especially “Belt” (voiced by Chris Sanders), who may be the world’s first wearable pet. He doesn’t exactly talk, but his signature “da da daaaaaaa!” is something parents should be prepared to hear from the back seat all the way home. One of many fun features offered on the film’s web site (http://www.thecroodsmovie.com/) is a faux-scientific guide to the “Croodaceus Era” with information on the “mousephant,” “crocopup,” and other creatures.