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The Croods

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

Animated characters appear in the movie "The Croods."
"The Flintstones" on steroids may best describe "The Croods" (Fox). Echoing the premise of the popular 1960s TV series, this 3-D animated comedy follows the rollicking adventures of another "modern Stone Age family."

Written and directed by Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon") and Kirk DeMicco ("Space Chimps"), "The Croods" is a refreshing change of pace for Hollywood family fare. Its punning title notwithstanding, the film's humor is not at all crude—there's not a potty joke within sight (or smell).

Instead, we have a fast-paced, good-humored and beautifully rendered romp that provides fun for moviegoers of just about any age. Only frightening interludes that might overwhelm the littlest viewers pose any concern for parents.

Climate change is in the air, and that fills Crood family patriarch Grug (voice of Nicolas Cage) with dread. Grug is overprotective of his loving wife, Ugga (voice of Catherine Keener), and of their three kids: Eep (voice of Emma Stone), a rebellious teen; Thunk (voice of Clark Duke), an outsized dimwit; and rambunctious toddler Sandy, who growls rather than speaks.

Throw in Grug's sassy mother-in-law, Gran (voice of Cloris Leachman), with whom he continually feuds, and you have a recipe for dysfunction and chaos.

Every day at sunset, Grug gathers his tribe and together they retreat to the safety of a dark cave. Thanks to him, the Croods are the only family which has survived the terrors of the wild.

"Darkness brings death," Grug teaches his brood. "Fear keeps us alive. Never not be afraid. Curiosity kills."

But inquisitiveness gets the better of Eep, who wanders off one night, intrigued by a flickering light in the distance. It leads her to a stranger named Guy (voice of Ryan Reynolds). Guy is an orphan who has survived through sheer resourcefulness -- and the discovery of fire.

Eep is enchanted by the hunky lad. (Who knew Neanderthals had abs of steel?) But Guy predicts doom and gloom unless the Croods follow his lead to a safe haven he calls "Tomorrow." Grug is suspicious, and resents relinquishing his role as guardian.

When the earth quakes and volcanoes erupt, the Croods have no choice but to join Guy on the ultimate road trip toward their destiny. Awash in psychedelic colors, the many otherworldly landscapes they encounter are reminiscent of James Cameron's "Avatar."

Whether intentional or not, "The Croods" carries an intriguing Christian subtext. The characters of the title live in fear in the dark. Guy arrives and persuades them to "live in the light" and "follow the sun." Doing so will lead to a kind of salvation as well as a renewal of the bonds of family and friendship.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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