‘The Croods: A New Age’ has more yabba dabba doos than yabba dabba don’ts

“The Croods:  A New Age” – “Tomorrow!  Tomorrow!  I love ya, tomorrow!  You’re always a day away!”

Moms with adolescents running around their humble abodes have probably felt that their teenagers never follow the rules.  By comparison, Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a model young man!

You see, while sinking in the tarpits to their apparent demise, Guy’s parents told their son to find Tomorrow, a paradise of sorts or their version of Eden, and he respects his folks’ wish.

Wait, tarpits?

This animated film – “The Croods: A New Age” – is not set in 2021, but during the Paleolithic Era.  Our cartoon friends, frenemies, and foes are cavemen, cavewomen, and all sorts of colorful creatures from this ancient time.  Director Joel Crawford’s lively flick is a sequel to 2013’s “The Croods”, but don’t worry if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen the original because the film catches up any naive audience members – including this critic – within the first few minutes.

Yes, the world may have already provided prehistoric joys like “The Flintstones” (1961 – 1966), “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels” (1977 – 1980), and Aardman Animations’ “Early Man” (2018), but make some room for the Crood clan’s comical misadventures too.

Now, Guy marches for many moons – in fact, over 200 – and eventually connects with the Croods, a close, nuclear family who joins Guy on his journey.  The Croods mostly click with Guy straight away, and especially Grug (Nicolas Cage) and Ugga’s (Catherine Keener) teenage daughter Eep (Emma Stone).  Eep and Guy fall in love, not unlike an intriguing boy who arrives at a new high school and draws the prom queen’s attention.  In this case, the girl in question has broad shoulders, climbs steep cliffs on all fours lickety-split, and sets aside the gathering and frequently hunts wild game herself.   She’s part-Renaissance young woman, part-ultimate tomboy and takes after her dear old dad, even though he’s not terribly fond of Guy, because Eep has eyes for him.

The point of this 95-minute big-screen adventure is to slap together some pretty effective slapstick.  This lovable family – complete with a doofus son, Thunk (Clark Duke), a tough-as-spears grandma (Cloris Leachman), a feral toddler, Sandy (Kailey Crawford), and a couple of trusty pets – bumble their way to Tomorrow and attempt to fit in.

If this premise sounds familiar, then yes, “The Croods: A New Age” is a “The Beverly Hillbillies” (1962-1971) yarn.  The said kin are bulls in a Hollywood-China shop, and the current, more refined Tomorrow residents are politely-aghast at the primal behavior.  An already all-star cast adds a couple more twinkles because Peter Dinklage and Leslie Mann play Tomorrow’s Phil and Hope Betterman, as the haves and have-nots disagree over proper, everyday decorum.  For instance, Grug has never seen a wall before and regularly walks through them, and when the “enlightened” couple offers separate rooms for their guests, Thunk asks, “What’s a room, and what’s a separate?”

Our friends have much to learn.

Crawford and four screenwriters (four???) pen inspiring comedic lessons during these culture clashes and also offer pure visual joy when the Croods throw massive boulders like baseballs and sleep in one pile every night.  Of course, the Croods and Bettermans – who have their differences – are eventually forced to work together.  Regrettably, their more congenial moments during the film’s third act meld with some wild, distracting absurdity involving wolf-spiders and a few thousand monkeys.  Even though the animators paint some darn-impressive sequences, the more personal, effectual discourse devolves (pardon the pun) into several busy, overblown action sequences that carry the disappointment of an overcooked Brontosaurus burger.

Still, the first two courses…err, I mean acts carry good feelings and hearty laughs, as “The Croods: A New Age” utters more yabba dabba doos than yabba dabba don’ts.

⭐⭐ 1/2  out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image credits:  Universal Pictures; Trailer credits: Movieclips Trailers

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