Animated sequel The Croods 2: A New Age 'turns its back on emotionally layered storytelling and character development'
THE CROODS 2: A NEW AGE (U, 96 mins) Animation/Adventure/Action/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman, Kelly Marie Tran, Kailey Crawford. Director: Joel Crawford.
Released: July 16 (UK & Ireland)
CUT from the same mammoth-pelt loincloth as its 2013 predecessor, director Joel Crawford's energetic computer-animated sequel forms a protective kill circle around its central theme of female empowerment and turns its back on emotionally layered storytelling and character development.
Plotlines from the original thaw out in The Croods 2: A New Age, disguised by breathtaking visuals in retina-searing colour, including a thunderous opening set-piece of stampeding kangadillos underscored, amusingly, by The Partridge Family's I Think I Love You.
A crudely cleaved class divide between the eponymous cave family and refined rivals, who believe privacy promotes individuality, establishes a flimsy narrative framework to explore intergenerational conflict and the reluctance of parents to let offspring fly the nest.
A close encounter with a pack of howling wolf-spiders in the film's frenetic final act loudly enforces the key message of family resolve in the face of adversity.
Anachronistic gags about tablets and man-caves in a ramshackle script credited to Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Paul Fisher and Bob Logan warrant appreciative smiles but belly laughs are few and far between, even with Ryan Reynolds working overtime among a starry voice cast.
His character's tragic back story gently plucks heartstrings in defiance of the Crood matriarch when she quips: "If no one's died before breakfast it's a win."
Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage) continues to lead his prehistoric brood comprising wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke), daughters Eep (Emma Stone) and Sandy (Kailey Crawford), and Gran (Cloris Leachman).
The sanctity of the clan is threatened by Eep's boyfriend Guy (Reynolds), who floats the idea of establishing a separate tribe with his beloved.
"The pack is stronger together. Eve would never leave us," Grug assures his unconvinced wife.
Before the young lovebirds formalise plans to blaze their own trail, Grug stumbles upon a food-rich haven cultivated by Phil (Peter Dinklage) and his wife Hope (Leslie Mann), who abide by one house rule: Don't eat the bananas.
"We're the Bettermans… with an emphasis on the better," chirrups Hope, who condescends to the Croods on their lower rung of the evolutionary food chain. Phil and Hope are closely connected to Guy's past and they plot to prise him away from Eep so he can pair up with their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran)
The Croods 2: A New Age mocks its title by revisiting scenarios from the first film with additional visual lustre. Vocal performances are solid but franchise newcomers Dinklage and Mann are short-changed as antagonistic rivals.
When the Bettermans fall short as a threat to the Croods' happiness, Crawford's picture introduces a pack of punch monkeys and a gargantuan Spiny Mandrilla to facilitate the inevitable reconciliations.
The sequel goes bananas but we follow the Bettermans' example and resist tucking in.