[Screen It]


(2020) (voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Comedy/Drama/Action: An overly protective prehistoric caveman tries to keep his family together in the face of teenage young love and the influence of more sophisticated outsiders they've suddenly met.

Having survived the perils that faced them in "The Croods," overly protective Grug (voice of NICOLAS CAGE) is simply trying to keep his prehistoric family pack -- wife, Ugga (voice of CATHERINE KEENER), her feisty mother, Gran (voice of CLORIS LEACHMAN), teenager Eep (voice of EMMA STONE), her younger brother Thunk (voice of CLARK DUKE), and their toddler sibling Sandy (voice of KAILEY CRAWFORD) -- together as long as he can. But the teen, Guy (voice of RYAN REYNOLDS), who's since joined them, is feeling a bit hemmed in, although he's romantically fallen for Eep and vice-versa. All of which worries Grug that they'll soon be setting off on their own to start their own pack.

His concerns end up temporarily put aside when he stumbles across a walled paradise filled with more than enough food to last them a lifetime. Little does he initially know that it belongs to far more sophisticated outsiders -- Phil (voice of PETER DINKLAGE) and Hope Betterman (voice of LESLIE MANN) -- who knew Guy as a child when he was best friends with their now teenage daughter, Dawn (voice of KELLY MARIE TRAN). Phil and Hope are repulsed by the crudeness of the Croods, but welcome Guy back with open arms and the hope that they can get him to stay for Dawn while getting the more primitive family to leave.

With Grug and Phil clashing, and Eep showing Dawn the outside world for the first time, it's unclear what and who Guy will choose, all while both sets of families must contend with a huge pack of punch monkeys and a much bigger menace lurking outside the high, protective walls.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

While the saying was originally intended to refer to a blacksmith striking iron while it's hot to mold it to some desirable shape, "strike while the iron is hot" is now used by plenty of people in a superstitious way, where they believe that luck is on their side, most likely fleetingly, and thus they need to continue doing whatever they're doing while that good juju is still glowing red.

In business, of course, you always want to keep pumping out products while the people are buying because you never know when the market is going to cool off. That applies to almost any industry but especially movies if one is going to go the sequel route, particularly when it comes to movies aimed at kids.

After all, a 10-year-old may really enjoy a particular offering and might again when they're thirteen. But they'll probably have a different view when they're 17 and no longer feel it's cool to watch a kid targeted movie with their family.

Such might be the case with "The Croods: A New Age," the sequel to "The Croods" that came out seven years ago. A month after its release, a sequel was announced, but then delays set in, creative people came and went and the project switched studios. It now arrives more than three years after the initial target date and with enough time passing for that fourth grader to now be driving and thinking about college.

Fortunately for the film, not only do kids keep coming off the assembly line, so to speak, to create a new target audience, but this offering is as fun, creative, and entertaining as its predecessor. Meaning it should similarly play to viewers of all ages. Yes, even those 17-year-olds.

The film -- directed by Joel Crawford from a script by Kevin Hageman & Dan Hageman and Paul Fisher & Bob Logan -- pretty much takes up where the original left off, with a brief two-dimensional animated prologue present to tap viewers' memories and/or quickly get newcomers up to speed.

The original vocal cast returns with Nicolas Cage as Grug, the prehistoric patriarch; Catherine Keener as matriarch Ugga; Emma Stone as teenager Eep; Clark Duke as her dimwitted brother Thunk; Randy Thom as the nearly feral younger sister Sandy; and Cloris Leachman as the kids' feisty grandmother, Gran.

And the last film's newcomer, Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds), is now part of the family pack, with him and Eep spending the early parts of the film making young love goo-goo eyes at each other (while The Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You" plays on the soundtrack, which is never a bad thing as it's a fantastic bit of bubblegum pop from my childhood).

That doesn't sit well with Grug who thinks the family should be a forever pack, and despite Ugga reminding him that's how they were at their age before they broke off to form their own pack, this romantic development definitely sticks in his craw.

As does an outsider who they stumble upon, Phil Betterman (voiced by Peter Dinklage), a more evolved human who lives in a walled paradise with his wife, Hope (Leslie Mann), and their teenage daughter, Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). She just so happened to grow up with Guy before his parents perished in a tar pit and he then wandered the Earth for years before finding the Croods.

The over-protective dads indirectly agree that they don't like each other but realize their meeting could be mutually beneficial, what with Grug hoping to nip the blossoming romance in the bud and Phil wanting to reunite his daughter with her childhood friend. But throw in some fun combo-animal critters, some punch monkeys that communicate through punches, and something King Kong-sized behind the immense, wood-pole fence surrounding the paradise and it's anyone's guess how things are going to play out.

Except for the fact that it's going to be imaginative, funny, clever, engaging, and occasionally even heartfelt while treading down a fairly familiar path. I laughed or chuckled more times in this film than many other so-called comedies I've seen this year, the computer-animated visuals are strikingly lush, and the vocal work from the impressive cast is spot on.

Accordingly, I think most viewers -- be they seven, seventeen, or seventy-seven -- will find plenty to amuse or at least divertingly entertain them here. And thus while the iron might not have been hot when it was struck again, all involved have molded this into a satisfying and entertaining diversion. "The Croods: A New Age" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 20, 2020 / Posted November 25, 2020

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