The latest adventure starring Dreamwork Animations’ prehistoric clan arrives on ultra-high definition to give home theater audiences an eye-popping and amusing lesson in evolution in The Croods: The New Age (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated PG, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 95 minutes, $44.98).
The computer-animated film reintroduces viewers to the hunting, gathering and survival skills of the Crood family and asks the thought-provoking question: “Do cave people belong in a modern world?”
They include patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage), his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), teen daughter Eep (Emma Stone), toddler daughter Sandy (Kailey Crawford), son Thunk (Clark Duke), feisty grandmother Gran (Cloris Leachman in her final role) and cave boy (as well as romantic interest of Eep) Guy (Ryan Reynolds).
After the group stumbles upon a massive wall, they meet the Bettermans — Phil (Peter Dinklage) and Hope (Leslie Mann) — a pair of evolved humans living in almost paradise along with their coddled daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran), who is also a long lost friend of Guy.
Phil and Hope initially welcome the Croods to stay as they introduce them to the finer parts of a refined lifestyle including showers, elevators, beds, windows, a steady diet of fruits and vegetables, the importance of bananas and even a literal mancave for the patriarchs.
Of course, the plot thickens when Phil decides Dawn would be a better match for Guy, and he works on a plan to get the Croods out of paradise and leave Guy behind.
The movie saturates viewers with action especially as they deal with surviving an army of Punch Monkeys and a King Kong-sized spiny Mandrill while also giving the kiddies a lesson in family friendship and tenacity.
The powerhouse cast also shines and, twinned with an entertaining story and impeccable visual design, makes “The Croods: The New Age” one of the most fun animated efforts in recent years. Hopefully, the next sequel won’t take seven years to make.
4K in action: The masterful effort offers a clinic on how an animated film can take full advantage of the UHD medium with its high dynamic range enhancements as well as 2160p clarity.
Animators must have had a riot creating the variety of outdoors locations and wondrous creatures.
These highlights include a chase between the Croods (atop their pet sabretooth tiger Chunky) and a pack of Kangadillos through a lava pit; a teetering rock formation covered with land sharks; a real pack of wolf spiders hiding in an ice cave; or best of all, the Bettermans’ lush and saturated garden of exotic fruits with its eye-burning neon palette (similar to Willy Wonka’s candy land).
Computer-animation clarity merges with color when inspecting the lifelike hair on the characters, even when grotesquely presented on Grug’s chest; or moments such as Gran munching a bamboo pole into sawdust; the appearance of white wooly mammoths; Trunk’s psychedelic window; that gorgeous pet sabretooth with green, blue and yellow fur; and florescent tribal face make-up worn by the clans.
Overall, the only choices that could have made the visual presentation even more spectacular would have been enjoying the film in a full-screen, IMAX-style format and watching it on an even bigger television to soak the incredible depths and hues.
Best extras: Families can start the evening with the Dreamworks Animation short “To: Gerard” featuring a mail clerk offering a bit of magic to a little girl and eventually appreciating the results of his good deed.
Next, after the feature film, watch a pair of shorts about the Croods, averaging three minutes each. The first offers a more traditional style of animation as Eep and Dawn deliver the first pranks in history on their family, and then Dawn relays the tale of Brianna Bread by using the ancient art of shadow puppetry.
After the new nuggets of entertainment, viewers can dive into the actual production of the animated epic.
Start with a 10-minute overview of the sequel supplemented by interviews from crew and cast (including a broodingly insistent Mr. Cage telling viewers that “Croods 2” is a fun movie); an eight-minute overview of the main characters introduced by the voice-over actors and director Joel Crawford; and 23 minutes of storyboarded deleted scenes (eight total), all introduced by Mr. Crawford.
And, the best of the bunch, watch the film again with an optional commentary track packed with information on the story, characters and animation process as joyously explained by Mr. Crawford, producer Mark Swift, head of story Januel Mercado and editor Jim Ryan.
Additionally, the 4K disc offers a trio of goodies for the kiddies to interact with the Crood animated world.
Start with detailed instructions by story artist Heidi Jo Gilbert on drawing eight characters from the movie including the pet sloths Belt and Sash while she works in an actual cave location.
Next, get tips on building an old-style family album, with parental help, using real leaves and leaf shapes cut out of construction paper as the pages.
Also, children get step-by-step instruction on making, with parents’ help, the snacks Fancy Fruit Leathers, Shark Milk Smoothies (it involves spinach, yuck) and Supersized Surprise (an ornate bowl of fruit comprised of oranges, pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe).