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'The Croods': 3-D Cartoon Cavemen For The Whole Family

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'The Croods': 3-D Cartoon Cavemen For The Whole Family

Movie Reviews

'The Croods': 3-D Cartoon Cavemen For The Whole Family

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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...

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MONDELLO: Cautious to a fault.

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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.

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MONDELLO: That's the sloth.

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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.

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MONDELLO: Which takes things out of their hands.

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

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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.

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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.

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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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