The latest animation to hit the big screen is “The Croods” starring Nicolas Cage as the voice of Grug and Emma Stone as the voice of his daughter, Eep. The Croods are a family of cave-people. There are actually six in the whole family, but the main characters are Grug, Eep, and a young man named Guy (voice by Ryan Reynolds).
Grug is the father in the family, and he’s a bit paranoid. His mantra is “never forget to be afraid” or “Never be not afraid” or something like that. He has the entire family living in a cave from which they exit only to find food. They live together, sleep together, and never give in to such terrible things as curiousity or intrigue. Then, one night, Eep sneaks out of the cave because she spies a light. She encounters Guy, a young man who has mastered the use of fire (hence, the light). He tells her that the world is ending, that fire, earthquakes, and destruction are heading their way. Shortly afterward, his prediction comes true, and the Croods’ cave is destroyed. So, together with Guy, the family must brave the frontier and go in search of safety before the changing landscape swallows them. Along the way, there is a raging conflict between Grug and Eep revolving around Guy. He’s Eep’s love interest, if you haven’t figured that out yet. But I won’t give you any more details about that; I’ll let you see the movie yourself.
Strengths: there were some good parts. I did laugh out loud once or twice. And it’s a typical animated film: Most of the humor is clean and child safe. But only most. Through much of the movie, Grug has a death wish for his mother-in-law. I suppose it is intended as black humor, but I found it highly inappropriate for a kiddie-movie. Also, it follows the same tired pattern that I see being replicated in all kids’ movies these days. Repressive father is being too protective of his teenage daughter; they fight, have falling out; father admits he was wrong, and they make up. You know, I would like to see a movie where just once the parent was actually the one in the right. I get tired of this propensity Hollywood/Disney/Whoever has for denigrating parents. They aren’t complete idiots, you know. Maybe a movie that emphasized that, is in order.
Overall, I’ll give this film three and a half out of five stars.
I had high hopes for the Ghostrider film series. I’ve liked a number of Nicholas Cage’s more recent films including “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the “National Treasure” movies. I also enjoyed Nicholas Cage in “The Rock” years ago.
Then I saw the first Ghostrider movie. I was all excited to see it. I mean, demons, hell, avenging spirits… who wouldn’t be? Now, several years later, I don’t remember much from that first movie, except that it was a complete let down. And the worst part is, it didn’t have to be. Everything was there to make a good movie: a cool looking character, sinister forces, what-have-you. They just didn’t follow through particularly well. They seemed to think a cool looking character was all you needed. And everything else about the movie would fall into place. Well, it didn’t and the movie was lame.
Well, despite all that, I still saw potential for the next installment in the series. I was hoping Ghostrider II: Spirit of Vengeance would be the movie Ghostrider I failed to be. And once again, I was let down. In the movie, Nicholas Cage plays Johnny Blaze, a former motorcycle stunt man who suffers from a terrible curse. In the presence of evil, he turns into an avenging demon from hell that looks like a skeleton wreathed in flames wielding deadly lengths of chain and riding a flaming motorcycle. He looks cool. He really does. But that’s it. A vengeful spirit must do more than look cool, in my opinion.
The plot of the movie was formulaic at best. There were the good guys and bad guys. The bad guys were searching for a certain child to fulfill a certain prophecy of doom. The Ghostrider is called in to protect the child. And so the story goes. The Ghostrider makes several appearances throughout the film, and whenever he does, destruction galore follows in his wake. And whenever he wastes a particularly bad nasty, we are treated with a “clever” one-liner whispered in a sepulchral demonic voice. But that hardly makes the film anything but a smash-‘em-up that is trying too hard.
A smash-‘em-up film can work. Like the “Hulk” with Ed Norton a few years back. It was great fun watching Dr. Banner hulk out and smash stuff. It had a plot and was fun to watch. The special effects were there, but they didn’t rely on them to make the story. Ghostrider II, however, is just all about flames and whipping chains. I noticed one really clever idea in the movie, and that was about it. I saw the film in 3-D, but looking back, I don’t even remember any particularly cool 3-D effects that I would be sorry to miss, so it even failed in that department as well.
I’ll give this movie two stars out of five. And I think I’m being generous.