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  • by Jeff Beck

The Croods: A New Age: A Sequel That Doesn't Live Up to the Original

Seven years ago, a sweet little animated film called "The Croods" was released, and while it didn't make a particularly big splash, it still stood out as a charming, thoughtful, and entertaining adventure about family, survival, and exploring the unknown, all told through the eyes of a prehistoric family trying to make it to "tomorrow." At long last, Dreamworks has finally brought forth a sequel, "The Croods: A New Age," to update us on their continuing search, but with such a long gap, can we expect the same level of quality, or is it perhaps a signal that this sequel was a little too hard to crack?

Picking up pretty much right where the first film left off, we find The Croods, including Grug (Voice of Nicolas Cage), Ugga (Voice of Catherine Keener), Eep (Voice of Emma Stone), and the newest member, Guy (Voice of Ryan Reynolds), trying to find a new life in the unknown. Eep and Guy continue to grow closer together and even discuss starting a pack of their own, which worries Grug quite a bit, that is until they find a seemingly perfect new home filled with food. However, it turns out it's already occupied by old family friends of Guy's, The Bettermans: Phil (Voice of Peter Dinklage), Hope (Voice of Leslie Mann), and their daughter Dawn (Voice of Kelly Marie Tran). Indeed, everything seems perfect in this new setting, including all of the modern conveniences that The Bettermans have invented, but it's not long before complications arise, with Phil and Hope plotting to bring Dawn and Guy together, and Grug hoping to get rid of Guy so as not to lose his daughter.

As mentioned, the first film had been a rather enjoyable family flick, incorporating humor and heart into a touching tale that had the titular family struggling to survive what seemed like the end of the world. With all of that behind them, it was going to be a somewhat difficult task to find them something nearly as interesting to deal with, and sadly, while the sequel does touch on some important topics of family, the writers behind it were apparently not quite up to the task of delivering a follow-up of similar quality (As a sidenote, the writers of the original came up with the story, but didn't actually write the screenplay).

For starters, the story has our characters stuck in the same location for much of the film, concentrating on the premise of whether Guy is going to end up with Eep or Dawn, which doesn't provide a foundation nearly as compelling as what had come before. It has its charming moments of humor (though some running jokes aren't nearly as amusing as the writers seem to think they are) and it's entertaining to a point, but the storyline is just a little stale and too predictable, and that's on top of a group of villainous monkeys feeling very tacked on for the third act.

Putting the issues in the writing aside for a moment, it does still offer the same gorgeous level of animation, on top of a marvelous voice cast that includes Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Cloris Leachman, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran. However, with all of the craft and talent that went into it, and I feel like I'm having to say this far too often, it really makes you wish that they had put a little more effort into developing a better story for these lively characters.

On the whole, "The Croods: A New Age" is hardly a terrible sequel, but with the somewhat weaker storyline, it does end up having the feeling of something that perhaps should've been a direct-to-Blu-ray release. It does still have a few elements to like about it, and kids may still enjoy it regardless, but with writing remaining the most pivotal ingredient, it ultimately isn't really worth the time. If they should happen to venture into a third film, we can only hope that they'll take a little more time in cracking a more compelling narrative so that these characters can shine once more like they did in their memorable first outing.

2.5/4 stars.

Opens in theaters this Wednesday.

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