The Croods: A New Age is the follow-up to DreamWorks Animation’s 2013 film The Croods—and if you’ve seen that, you mostly know what you’re getting into with this one. Although it’s clearly tailored for kids to enjoy as its first priority, A New Age leans into the physical comedy and, for lack of a better phrase, crude humor of its predecessor with success, creating a lighthearted, low-ambition romp that kids will love and adults will enjoy.
Not much time has passed since the original film, where the Crood family—led by patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage)—joins the orphaned Guy (Ryan Reynolds) in search of the ambiguous “Tomorrow” that his late parents urged him toward. Early on, they appear to find it in the garden of Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope Betterman (Leslie Mann). They lead a family of seemingly sophisticated humans who have embraced imitations of modern technology and a sheltered life, building a wall surrounding their home to block out the outside world.
This leads to plenty of comical conflict between the cave-dwelling Croods and the Bettermans, especially within Guy as he struggles between maintaining his relationship with cavegirl Eep (Emma Stone) and embracing the life of the Bettermans, who were family friends of his parents.
The film’s premise means that much of it takes place at and around the Bettermans’ abode, so while the location is colorful and imaginative, it lacks the full scope and scale of its predecessor’s long trek across the prehistoric era’s locales. On the other hand, the already expressive facial animations appear to have been improved upon, producing some of A New Age’s funniest moments of physical comedy. And the animation definitely does the heavy lifting.
As has become the trend with blockbuster animated films, the star-studded cast is more of a marketing tool than anything else, meant to catch parents’ attention. That’s not to say that anyone phones it in, however, with Cage and Dinklage in particular acting out some of the films’ funniest scenes in which the two father figures demonstrate their own brands of stupidity, aided by DreamWorks’ emotive animation. The other notable newcomer to the cast is Kelly Marie Tran’s Dawn Betterman, the daughter whom the Bettermans try to set up with Guy but ends up befriending Eep instead. Hope and Eep’s enthusiasm at finding another similarly aged “girl friend” seems to hint at a budding queer romance between the two, but by the end, it’s clear that any appearance of such was sadly unintentional. Cloris Leachman is also a stand-out in her reprisal of the role of Gran, Grug’s ancient mother-in-law who refuses to die. Her character kicks ass in increasingly hilarious ways throughout, at one point forming the all-female “Thunder Sisters” tribe in a metal bikini while sporting eight-pack abs.
With no disrespect meant to the film’s composer, Mark Mothersbaugh, A New Age received a noticeable downgrade from Alan Silvestri’s original score. The soundtrack was one of the highlights in The Croods, punctuating its important moments with a weight that only Silvestri and a handful of other composers add. Mothersbaugh’s, by comparison, is completely unmemorable, serving each scene’s purpose but never exceeding it. That said, The Croods was never meant to be an emotional franchise to start with, so perhaps Silvestri’s loss isn’t as damaging here as it might be in something more dramatic.
The Croods are simply funny, surface-level characters—and even though a sequel definitely didn’t need to be made, its existence is a fine excuse to spend more time among this family of Neanderthals. Other than simple themes of family and embracing change, neither film is too insistent on having any big moral or emotional message alongside its story of silly cavemen doing silly caveman things…and perhaps that’s for the best. Lacking emotional weight, its world isn’t as deep as other DreamWorks Animation properties (such as Kung Fu Panda or How to Train Your Dragon), but it clears space for there to be as much comedy as possible. Thankfully, this humor doesn’t have one set of fart jokes for the kids and innuendo-filled humor for the adults, but instead uses universal physical comedy through expressive animation and exaggerated acting to make jokes that’ll get the kids but have the adults smiling (if not laughing) along.
In fact, I think I laughed a bit more with A New Age than I did with the original, thanks in most part to its enhanced cartoonishness and the Bettermans’ added foil to the Croods’ antics. The movie doesn’t really seem interested in providing any other reactions but light laughter, but after a year like this one, I was perfectly happy to sit back and enjoy another hour and a half with this crazy family.
Director: Joel Crawford
Writers: Kevin Hageman, Dan Hageman, Paul Fisher, Bob Logan
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, Kelly Marie Tran
Release date: In theaters Nov. 25, 2020; available digitally Dec. 25, 2020
Joseph Stanichar is a freelance writer who specializes in videogames and pop culture. He’s written for publications such as Game Informer, Twinfinite and The Post. He’s on Twitter @JosephStanichar.