Eep (Emma Stone, The Amazing Spider-Man) is the adolescent daughter who's coming of (stone) age, which means that she's decided she's ready for something other than following strict rules. Grug (Nicolas Cage, National Treasure / Ghost Rider), Eep's father and the head of the family, takes his job as protector and provider very seriously, however, and doesn't understand why Eep won't obey the rules and keep in line... keep safe. No one supports Eep in her desires to try new things, but Gran (Cloris Leachman, Young Frankenstein/ The Iron Giant), Grug's grey-haired, long-toothed mother-in-law, is the most likely to jump on her bandwagon, if only to be contrary to Grug. Grug is constantly hoping that she "doesn't make it" through whatever they might do and even works extra hard at one point in the hopes that his actions would shock her to death. Showing the power struggle and friction between a man and his mother-in-law is cliche, but having that man openly express that he wants the mother-in-law dead seems a bit out of place in a movie for children. This is one of those places that the "Parental Guidance" should come into play, in my opinion. Thunk (Clark Duke, Greek/ Hot Tub Time Machine) is Eep's younger brother and he does his best to help his father out, but although he's very obedient, he's not as smart as Grug ...and that's really saying something. Rounding out the rest of the family, we have Ugga (Catherine Keener, The 40 Year Old Virgin / Into the Wild), Grug's wife and Sandy (Randy Thom, Forrest Gump / The Incredibles), usually referred to simply as "the baby" - usually in a "Release the baby!" sort of way. Sandy is feral and ferocious - it's best to simply not make eye-contact.
For a long time, this family is all that Eep knows of the world, until one night, she succumbs to her curiosity, leaves her cave at night, and DIES!
Um, sorry... no, she doesn't die; she meets a guy. Guy (Ryan Reynolds) is a loner and an inventor, traveling on his own. He relies on his wits, rather than several feet of rock, to protect him from predators. That's working pretty well for him, however; he's discovered fire and the benefits of shoes... and made a handy friend of a sloth named Belt (Chris Sanders). Belt is Guy's cook, his pet, his friend and... helps Guy hold his pants up. He doesn't speak, but often uses his trademark climactic song at overly dramatic events. No idea what that means? Watch the clip below to see Hollywood celebrities do their impression of it.
DUN DUN DAHHH!!!!!
Eep's new-found friend brings her bad news, warning her that her world is dying and that the only hope for survival is to flee the coming quakes as the very ground will crumble and swallow everything up. This introduces change that Grug and his brood are ill-equipped to deal with, but since the cave is no longer able to keep these cavemen safe, they will have to adapt if they hope to have a future. They all have to learn to think on their feet and to try new things if they hope to survive. But, sticking together as a family - including their new friends/ luggage Guy and Belt - they may just have a chance.
The characters are endearing (well, they grow on you), but even though the backdrop is (pre-)historical in nature, the flora and fauna are about as real as the whimsical creations of Dr. Seuss, which is well and good, but "Bearowls" may be quite disturbing for small children and, along with the "Liyotes" (half lizard, half coyote), may lead to confusion when children later encounter taxonomy in science class.
The Croods on iTunes is a Fox Digital HD release, allowing you to watch the film in beautifully vibrant color in 1080p or 720p. I watched most of this film on my 22" widescreen monitor and some of it on my iPad 2. While it looked great, the best way to watch such high resolution video is definitely on the largest HD screen in your house. If I had an AppleTV, this would have been an option. If you're like me and don't have an AppleTV, but have another device, such as a PlayStation3 or an Xbox 360 connected to your television, you may wish to check out one of the other retailers (such as Sony PlayStation or Xbox 360), which may offer compatibility with those devices.
Also, I am a fan of physical media for a few reasons, but one of them is that digital versions don't usually have extra features. I was surprised to find that the movie download actually consists of two separate parts: the movie itself and an "Extras" product, which is the digital equivalent to an interactive menu with special features. The Extras video can be used as a dashboard, of sorts, to play the movie, jump to a specific scene with a themed scene selection menu or watch special features or previews. My favorite special feature is Belt's Cave Journal, a story that is animated in a cave-painting style, of sorts, detailing one of Guy and Belt's adventures that occurred before the events in the movie. It shows how Guy and Belt helped a poor Jacrobat reunite with its family.
I experienced some problems downloading and installing The Croods, but your mileage may vary, as it seems that most of the problems were either resolved by rebooting iTunes, rebooting my iPad or resetting my resolution. For more details on my experience, check out the Backstage at Game Vortex link, below.
The colors and look of The Croods make it captivating and interesting to kids and Belt's "Duh - Duh Duhhh!" will likely be repeated quite a bit by small children everywhere (most likely when their siblings spill the milk or break something), but the whole "waiting anxiously for the mother-in-law to die" seems a bit much, especially when Grug actually does something hoping it finishes her off. As it says above, this is PG - it's for kids, but may require some parental guidance.