REVIEW: “THE CROODS: A NEW AGE (2020) Universal Pictures

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The Croods: A New Age is the sequel to 2013’s The Croods which centered on a family of Neanderthals trying to survive in a cold and barren world. This time around the film focuses on his now teenage daughter Eep’s (Emma Stone) romance with Guy (Ryan Reynolds), and her dad Grug’s (Nicolas Cage) worrying thoughts that he might lose her as the two look to starting their own clan.

Luckily for those that can’t remember the ending of the previous film (ahem..me!), The Croods: A New Age picks up pretty much exactly where the first film ended and this fun prehistoric family, which also includes Catherine Keener reprising her role as Ugga, Gran (Cloris Leachman) and younger brother Thunk (Clark Duke) who are going all out in fending off insane creatures and attempting to survive one catastrophe after another.

Everything changes when they break down a wall and stumble upon a valley paradise that has food aplenty. Much to everyone’s surprise this utopia valley is occupied by another family – the Betterman’s – Phil (Peter Dinklage), Hope (Leslie Mann) and Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran), who live in a simply amazing and vastly huge treehouse complete with toilets an elevator and a ‘picture screen’. As it turns out, the Betterman’s knew Guy’s family as they all grew up together and they welcome him home with open arms. All the while having a eye out for him getting into a relationship with Dawn and not even attempting to acknowledge the possibility of him and Eep. This is all done with a bit of arrogance as they are keeping the rest of the family at arm’s length and giving subtle hints with a ‘moving basket’ of food for the road while wanting Guy to stay back with them and all their creature comforts. This immediately creates a rift of which ensues some cute fun moments with a cast of characters that include punch monkeys and the inevitable ‘monster.’ But the biggest question posed for Guy is a toss up between what he ‘should do’ or what ‘he wants to do’ as this decision will affect them all.

While the clan faces all kinds of perilous moments, most of them are over-the-top and slapstick fun as things like fending off wild beasts is just another day in this family’s life. The movie is sure to be a nonstop delight for kids as there isn’t the usual frenetic pacing and pop culture references that go over most kids (as well as some adults) heads. It’s full of bright, colorful visuals with a storyline where there are clear themes of courage, teamwork, and the importance of being yourself. There are also some great “girl power” moments when Eep and the other female characters become the Thunder Girls and have to rescue the captive guys.

All in all, this is a cute, decent holiday watch that while not be for all the adults in the room – it is for the kids and that’s how it really should be.

Grade: B+

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Review screening: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE CROODS: A NEW AGE” NOW PLAYING ONLY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILBLE STARTING WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2020 ~ COMING TO VOD FOR CHRISTMAS

REVIEW: “THE INCREDIBLES 2” (2018) Disney/Pixar Pictures

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All these years later, Director Brad Bird, the creative force behind the original ‘INCREDIBLES’, is back with the much anticipated sequel – “THE INCREDIBLES 2”.

And Bird is not the only returnee for the sequel. Also back is the entire Parr Family: Holly Hunter as Elastigirl/Helen/Mom, Craig T Nelson as Mr. Incredible/Bob/Dad, Sarah Vowell as Violet, Huck Milner as Dash, and Eli Fucile as baby Jack Jack. The story picks up not long after the original ended. “Supers” have been outlawed, and the Parrs are in some type of Super Protection Program – similar to Witness Protection. Of course when one is a superhero, doing the right thing just comes naturally, and the opening scene finds them battling their old nemesis Underminer (John Ratzenberger). Our heroes stop the crime, but cause significant damage to the city. This leads to our first social commentary when the powers that be scold the Parrs and inform them that the banks have insurance, and it’s cheaper to let the criminals get away so that the damage is minimized.

As superheroes non-grata, the Parrs try to go “straight” and live a normal life. That is until a powerful brother and sister corporate duo offer a proposal. Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) and Evelyn Deavor (Catherine Keener) want to generate a PR plan to help rebuild the reputation of supers. The idea is to make Elastigirl the public face of the program by having her wear a body cam to show off her heroic deeds (in this age of ‘pics or it didn’t happen’). She’s chosen over Mr. Incredible for economic reasons, and he’s relegated to stay-at-home parent – basically a ‘Mr. Mom’ so to speak. Elastigirl plays up her time in the limelight and clearly enjoys it immensely, while Bob doesn’t much like being just Bob. Plus he can’t understand why they’ve changed math (something I can VERY much relate too, being someone who really doesn’t like the maths at all 🙂 ), as he gets frustrated trying to help Dash with his homework. He’s also challenged with Violet’s teen angst over a boy, and even more so over the discovery that Jack Jack has POWERS! Yes, you read that right. Jack Jack has powers. And boy are they fun! In fact, Jack Jack has multiple powers, but as a baby, he has little control – though his battle with a raccoon is not a segment you’ll soon forget.

Also returning is Frozone(Samuel L. Jackson), and costume designer Edna Mode – voiced by director Bird himself. Other new voices include Jonathan Banks as Rick Dicker, Isabella Rossellini as the Ambassador, and Sophia Bush as Voyd, one of the new generation supers (which includes Reflux – one you’ll just have to experience).

The big new villain causing problems for Elastigirl is ‘ScreenSlaver’, who hypnotizes large groups of people through their screens – more social commentary on our dependence on technology and the addiction/affliction we have toward device screens. The flood of superhero movies over the years since THE INCREDIBLES exposes the not-so-complex story in this one, but it’s terrific that the film keeps much of the original look and feel, and yet brings something new in that baby Jack Jack is a star!

Filled with the beautiful colors and art design we’ve come to take for granted from Pixar, the film also features some of the best action sequences you’ll see in any movie. The train sequence with Elastigirl is simply spectacular – as is the final action sequence. It’s also nice to see the flip in gender roles as Mom aka Elastagirl here, takes the lead. Honestly, Family films don’t get much better than this, and even though it runs 2 hours, the closing credits feature the theme song for each of the superheroes, and could easily have been a short film unto itself.

What can I say except..This movie truly has no flaws and “THE INCREDIBLES 2” is soooo worth the wait of every one of those 14 long years. Not only has it upped it’s game, but somehow it actually improved on those still fun and amazing characters, Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl, and Edna, but with new break-out characters, notably Jack Jack, it goes full-tilt fun!!

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Thursday, June 7, 2018 – Courtesy of Film Independent and LACMA
“THE INCREDIBLES 2 WILL BE OUT NATIONWIDE ON FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018 // U.K AND WORLDWIDE IN JUNE/JULY/AUGUST