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So, how best to describe The Croods 2: A New Age to anyone who hasn’t maybe seen the first film, or is curious as to why the long wait in between films, or, of course, anyone who thinks it might be a little too rambunctious for their young ones. Rest assured, this almost 39-year-old writer laughed and howled almost as much as he did seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit as a precocious 7-year-old so utilise that as your range-finder. Suffice it to say, we haven’t laughed that much at a film for a very long time.
The first film was funny too, but with the sequel, everything is bolder, wiser, and more assured in its peculiar rhythms that, in terms of laughter value, is right up there with this year’s other standout animation – thus far – The Mitchells Vs The Machines. In fact, both share similar DNA in their lofty, beautiful design and their manic energies that help them soar above many other pretenders in the last few years, both outstripping the competition by quite a margin.
Set not too long after the events of its predecessor, The Croods are still together: Eep (Emma Stone) is still smitten with Guy (Ryan Reynolds) whilst dad Grug (Nicolas Cage) disapproves vehemently behind them, afraid she will soon leave the clan and split their dynamics. But mum Ugga (Catherine Keener) sees things a little differently whilst Thunk (Clark Duke) and Gran (Cloris Leachman) go about their usual day-to-day of being the “peculiar” ones of the family. What they all want is safer surroundings as they still battle the elements of the prehistoric age where everything can eat you, and through Guy’s mysterious past, find themselves in the tranquil, banana-laden surroundings inhabited by The Bettermans. But where they are supposedly more evolved, things might not be what they seem.
If you’ve seen the first, you’ll be expecting a lot of what you see here that laid the foundations for its unique energy and bounties of magic so you’ll be delighted also to find that there is even more on offer, as its kaleidoscopic, luminous palette of every colour possibility you could ever devise, is all superbly realised as it bursts from the screen. But amongst all of the wonder are some important messages and lessons for all ages, whether to do with immigration, racism, love, and acceptance – even subtle hints on economics, social media, and our obsessions with television – as well that of sticking together and forming a family, no matter how strained, something that has been the most important over the last mad year of everyone’s lives.
While it doesn’t break the mould in the simplest contexts of animation and storytelling – some small parts are derivative of many others, but then aren’t they all? – The Croods 2 is a blast: with some tremendous vocal performances (Stone, Reynolds, and Cage as good as ever, new additions Leslie Mann, Peter Dinklage, and Kelly Marie Tran having a ball) and spectacular design. It’s a vibrant, funny, imaginative, and supremely touching film that, after months of uncertainty, pain and loss, is precisely the bolt of positivity we all need.
Comedy, Animation | USA, 2020 | U | 16th July 2021 (UK) | Cinema | Universal Pictures | Dir. Joel Crawford | Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, Kelly Marie Tran, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann