When it comes to animation studios that have a unique voice, DreamWorks is one that easily stands out. No one makes animated films as they do and their craft and skill lend themselves to make stories that really are amazing and inspirational. I can say without a doubt they're one of the best-animated studios of all time and I'm always eager to see what they do next, especially when it comes to a sequel. They've made a handful of fantastic animated sequels before and even surprised me this year with the very clever "Trolls World Tour" which I found a lot of fun compared to the first "Trolls". This is why I was curious to see how their next sequel "The Croods: A New Age" would turn out. While I certainly enjoyed the first film from 2013, I wasn't exactly clamoring for more adventures with the titular cave family. Now having seen this sequel, I can say that the film pretty much gave me what I expected. It's an average animated sequel to a film that probably would've been best as a standalone. It's certainly not terrible, but I wasn't thrilled by it either.
This film picks up right where the last film left off. The Croods, leader Grug (Nicholas Cage), his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener), his oldest daughter Eep (Emma Stone), his son Thunk (Clark Duke), Ugga's mother Gran (Cloris Leachman), and their youngest daughter Sandy have been traveling with the caveboy Guy (Ryan Reynolds) for quite some time after leaving their cave and living life in the world with Eep and Guy having become romantically close much to Grug's dismay. One day, the Crood family discovers a wall to a paradise where they meet a more civilized family known as the Betterman's including Phil (Peter Dinklage), his wife Hope (Leslie Mann), and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran) who reveal they had raised Guy for some time after he lost his parents way before he met the Croods. Except for Grugg, everyone seems happy with the Betterman family and is happily adapting to their new ways though the Bettermans secretly have plans to steal back Guy and hook him up with Dawn. What happens next I'm pretty sure you can figure out from there.
This was a film that really had a troubled production that I remember reading about for years. After the first film came out in theaters seven years ago, DreamWorks announced they were making a sequel which was scheduled for 2017. However, DreamWorks was going through financial troubles and many projects ended up getting shelved or delayed and this film ended up getting pushed back to 2018. Then in 2016, DreamWorks was bought by Universal Pictures and the film was subsequently canceled but was then revived only less than a year later. I've heard many variations of the story in the film were attempted and I honestly am curious to see what they might've been like because the final version of the story we did get didn't do much for me. This is a sequel that feels like it's driven by standard meet the new family formulas I've seen in many other animated films and it feels really worn out here. The film did have a nice start with a younger Guy losing his parents and how he eventually came to meet Eep which spawned the events of the first film, but afterward, it diverges into animated film cliches I've seen hundreds of times before and doesn't do anything new with them. I could guess where every plot point leads like how the families meet, what eventually leads to them fighting, and them eventually teaming up for the third act, and it all feels so incredibly boring and lacks a lot of creativity. The whole film builds up to a lack of surprise including a climax that takes elements from the Genndy Tartakovsky show "Primal" and even DreamWorks own "How to Train Your Dragon" and it just felt so standard and safe. There's a couple of good jokes in there that got a mild chuckle out of me, but it couldn't make up how predictable the film ended up being. I also thought most of the characters took on these cliche tropes as well with the Crood family not developing but rather feeling the cliched characters we've seen and didn't really have a whole lot of development outside the first film. Ugga, Krunk, Gran, and Sandy didn't have much development in this sequel while characters like Grug, Eep, and Guy have some new arcs but unfortunately, they're arcs we're all too familiar with particularly the father being unwilling to let his daughter go with a boy. While it's certainly better handled than in some other animated films, it's, unfortunately, nothing that stands out. I also really disliked Phil and Hope Betterman as they come off as the cliche nice clean family we've seen that's disgusted with the dirty family we're all used to and feels rather uninspired. Even their development and growth to like the Crood family isn't as strong as something like in "Shrek 2" where Lilian and Harold are able to accept Shrek and Fiona as they are. It's rather sad. I did like the character of Dawn though with Kelly Marie Tran's performance being the highlight as she gives her a boisterous personality and fun nature that made her fun to tolerate. It also led to her and Eep having a fun scene where the two take the death cat Chunky out for a "joy ride" which led to a "How to Train Your Dragon" esque scene that I did admire. If there's anything I can say has improved from the first film, it's the animation. DreamWorks really knows how to make a very gorgeous computer-animated film and it takes the beautiful landscape and environments that were brought so brilliantly to life in the first film with the help of Roger Deakins and steps them up to new gorgeous levels. It's easily the highlight of the film and every frame looks gorgeous rendered and phenomenally detailed. The animators really did a fantastic job with this film and I got to give them full props for that.
Though, "The Croods: A New Age" is still a rather average sequel. The animation is gorgeous and truly a delight, but the story and characters are rather formulaic and predictable that which led to a rather average animated sequel. I wouldn't say this is a bad film by any means, but it didn't impress me given that it didn't really have anything that stood out. I would only recommend this film for diehard fans of the first film. For everyone else, this sequel with the world's first modern family isn't as advanced as it should be.