After a Thanksgiving turkey binge, a cartoon blast may be just what families need, so, in observance of coronavirus pandemic rules, of course, "The Croods: A New Age" could be just the ticket. Like its predecessor from 2013, this is a knockoff of "The Flintstones," the popular TV series in which families lived in caves but behaved like modern sitcom characters.
You'll be pleased to know that Oscar winner Nicolas Cage is back, using every considerable quirk in his vocal arsenal to voice Grug Crood, the musclebound caveman from The Croodaceous era. Grug spent the first film trying to ward off dangerous creatures like Macawnivores and piranhakeets, out to gobble up his family. Another Oscar winner, Emma Stone, voiced Grug's headstrong daughter, Eep, who insists she needs no one's help, not even from her cute boyfriend Guy (Ryan Reynolds). Chaos ensued. Did "The Croods" cry out for a sequel? Not really. But since the movie raked in a worldwide gross of $600 million, a followup was inevitable. Making a quick buck is clearly a concept that transcends time.
The good news is, "The Croods: A New Age" is not half bad. Its plot, about the Croods trying to end their dangerous life on the run by finding a permanent home, ironically reflects the pandemic era, in which we're all seeking shelter from an environment that is trying to kill us every five minutes. What the Croods find is indeed a haven, located behind a wall and with all the modern conveniences, including a primitive toilet. Grug, his wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), their son, Thunk (Clark Duke,) and their Gran, (Cloris Leachman), think they have found paradise. Ditto Eep and Guy.
The big catch is that they're not alone. Their new home is occupied by the Bettermans (love the name), who built and decorated the place like the creators of a Stone Age Home Improvement. Husband Phil (Peter Dinklage, great even just as a voice), wife Hope (Leslie Mann) and daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran) are in every way intellectually superior to the Croods. But the tension eases when the Croods and the Bettermans, like the Flintstones and the Rubbles, find a way to live together. Cage and Dinklage make a hilarious pair of opposites as the families find safety in numbers, and their battle with the punch-monkeys is a hoot, despite the scary presence of their King Kong-ish leader.
Conflict intensifies when Eep and Guy decide to leave this utopia to form their own pack, which naturally drives Grug nuts. It's a shame that director Joel Crawford reverts to the manic jumble that infected the first film, turning exhilaration into exhaustion. But until then, the sequel speaks to the life lessons we're all learning about breaching the cultural divide that marks our present day and staying connected even when forced apart. Pretty good for a cartoon.