After nearly a decade of fraught production news and release date moves, this colorful, feel-good family film packs (some) real charms. Thus, “The Croods: A New Age” was born. After debuting at the Berlin International Film Festival (yes, really) and entering the 2013 box office marketplace against some stiff competition (“Frozen,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Monsters University”), Kirk DeMicco and Chris Sanders’ original animated comedy “The Croods” did something kind of crazy: it made over half a billion dollars. As the 11th highest-grossing film of that year, the animated family film was an unexpected smash that obviously demanded a sequel. Just weeks after its U.S. release, DreamWorks Animation greenlit the no-duh follow-up…and it took nearly a decade to get to the big screen, buffeted by at least one cancellation, nearly a half dozen release dates, and a global health crisis.
Was it worth the wait? Eh, sort of. Like its predecessor, Joel Crawford’s feature directorial debut offers a familiar story, some classic lessons, and a lot of caveman-centric humor in one inoffensive package. The good stuff is still good: full-throated voice performances from a star-studded cast (Nicolas Cage manages to make his role as a prehistoric dad fit neatly alongside other recent choices in his inscrutable career), a bevy of delightfully weird animals, and the kind of loving messaging that never goes out of style. But there’s also not-so-good stuff, including a straightforward animation style and a story that not only apes the original’s but those of other sequels (plus a plot point that feels weirdly like one that appeared in “Frozen 2”).
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