Spring break is upon us. That means families need entertaining and Hollywood is ready. The makers of the animated comedy "How To Train Your Dragon," have a new offering in theaters today. It's called "The Croods." Instead of Vikings, this time it's cavemen on a kind of prehistoric road trip. Bob Mondello has our review.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Eep is a cavegirl with a dad she sees - entirely accurately, let's note - as a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, loving, but dim. And as you'll guess from his bedtime stories...


NICOLAS CAGE: (As Grug) Tonight, we'll hear the story of crispy bear.

MONDELLO: Cautious to a fault.


CAGE: (As Grug) She was filled with curiosity. Yes. And one day she saw something new and died.

EMMA STONE: (As Eep) Just like that?

CAGE: (As Grug) Yes.

STONE: (As Eep) Oh, same ending as every day.

CLARK DUKE: (As Thunk) I get it dad, I will never do anything new or different.

MONDELLO: That's Thunk, Eep's low-browed little brother who has absorbed their dad's never not be afraid mantra, as have the rest of the family. Eep, though, is more adventurous, as voiced by Emma Stone. And one night, she sees the light, literally, a cinder from a torch, and follows it to find a handsome, high-browed guy with the voice of Ryan Reynolds, a pet sloth and a flair for the dramatic.


RYAN REYNOLDS: (As Guy) The world is ending.

STONE: (As Eep) What?

REYNOLDS: (As Guy) I'm calling it the end.

MONDELLO: That's the sloth.


REYNOLDS: (As Guy) We got to get to high ground. Come with me.

STONE: (As Eep) I can't.

MONDELLO: Neander-girl meets Sapien-boy, and never the twain would meet again, except that the very next day, Guy's prediction starts to come true.


CAGE: (As Grug) Eep, come down...

MONDELLO: Which takes things out of their hands.


CAGE: (As Grug) Head for the cave, go.

MONDELLO: A landslide destroys the cave before they get there and beyond the rubble they find a new world of bizarre creatures.


STONE: (as Eep) You really need to see this.

MONDELLO: Think The Flintstones on Pandora, with the Croods almost becoming crudites for critters ranging from saber-toothed tigers to a flock of tiny razor-toothed birds that look a lot like piranha-keets. For a while, I thought there might be a political parable intended, Nicolas Cage's conservative dad competing with his daughter's progressive boyfriend for the right to chart a path forward.

But it's pretty quickly clear the filmmakers don't actually have much on their minds besides jokes.


REYNOLDS: (As Guy) I call them shoes.

STONE: (As Eep) I love them. Where are my feet.

MONDELLO: As you can hear, the archetypes are nearly as ancient as the cave drawings the characters occasionally reference, not just girls who love shoes and overprotective dads, but annoying in-laws and family dynamics in general.


DUKE: (As Thunk) That's not food. He's a pet. My pet.

CLORIS LEACHMAN: (As Gran) What's a pet?

DUKE: (As Thunk) An animal you don't eat.

LEACHMAN: (As Gran) We call those children.

MONDELLO: If the digital 3-D gorgeousness owes a lot to Cameron's world-creating work in Avatar, the plot of "The Croods" is structurally crude, just a Paleolithic road trip with detours for slapstick and sentiment. It's less about breaking new ground, or even breaking in new characters, than about creating an "Ice Age"-style franchise. Still, as family viewing, it's pleasant enough, primitive, yes, but in a digitally sophisticated way that's boisterous, funny and will no doubt sell a lot of toys.

I'm Bob Mondello.

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