Cavemen Summon Up Courage To Explore Earth In Enchanting Animated Adventure
Are you better off than you were four million years ago? That’s the evolutionary question playfully posed by The Croods, a visually captivating, action-oriented cartoon revolving around an agoraphobic clan of cave dwellers that summon up the courage to abandon their home in the face of impending climate change.
The enchanting message movie was co-directed by Kirk De Micco (SpaceChimps) and Chris Sanders (How To Train Your Dragon) who assembled an ensemble featuring Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Cloris Leachman to breathe life into a colorful array of prehistoric characters. Besides the talented voice cast, the film makes a most effective use of 3D technology guaranteed to keep the tykes enthralled for the duration, whether they’re ducking projectiles aimed directly at their heads or trying to touch objects dangling just out of reach.
At the point of departure, we find the Croods huddled inside their dank, dark cave where they sleep in a pile to keep warm at night. The family is presided over by Grug (Cage), an overprotective patriarch whose mantra is the double negative “never not be afraid!”
The other members of his primitive brood include naggy mother-in-law Gran (Leachman), long-suffering wife Ugga (Catherine Keener) and their three kids: feral baby Sandy (Randy Thom), man-child Thunk (Clark Duke) and rebellious teen Eep (Stone). Grug feels it is his duty to remind them on a daily basis of the many dangers lurking just beyond the entrance of their boulder-fortified abode.
That’s why he’s so fond of telling bedtime stories in which any curiosity about the outside world invariably proves fatal. Grug’s scare tactics work until the fateful day Eep sneaks off to explore on her own only to encounter a boy (Reynolds) about her own age.
Not only has handsome Guy figured out how to harness fire to keep hungry creatures at bay but he forecasts imminent doom for any humans who fail to move to higher ground. When Eep brings word of this frightening development to her Neanderthal of a dad, it becomes abundantly clear that it’s going to take more than a little convincing to get him to lead the family out of the cave on a perilous trek to safety.
Mother Nature plays a part in nudging him to grudgingly join forces with Guy, and the ensuing sojourn across a vast wasteland to Shangri-La allows for a priceless lesson about risk-taking as relevant in the 21st century as it must have been back in the Stone Age. A sidesplitting, thrill-a-minute adventure reminiscent of the best of The Flintstones. Wilma!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 98 minutes
The Weinstein Company
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, sexuality, smoking and mature themes.
Aussie Quartet Entertains The Troops In Vietnam War Dramedy
As young children, the McCrae sisters, Gail (Deborah Mailman), Julie (Jessica Mauboy) and Cynthia (Miranda Tapsell), formed a promising singing group with their cousin (Shari Sebbens). But the ensemble barely got off the ground before Kay was seized by the authorities while recuperating in a hospital.
You see, the girls were growing up in Australia at a time when the law allowed fair-skinned aborigines to be taken from their mothers and placed with Caucasian families so they could be raised in accordance with the “white ways.” Consequently, half-caste Kay had virtually no further contact with indigenous culture or any of her relatives over the next decade.
By 1968, however, Gail, Julie and Cynthia were old enough to track their cousin down, whereupon they encouraged her to run away with them on the spot. And it wasn’t long thereafter that the reunited foursome entered a local amateur competition as a country music act.
Although they underwhelmed the audience that day, they did impress Dave Lovelace (Chris O’Dowd) who recognized their potential, assuming they would be willing to change their repertoire to popular Motown tunes. In short order, he became the quartet’s piano player, conductor, choreographer and manager, whipping his diamond in a rough into Australia’s answer to The Supremes before signing them to perform for the troops over in Vietnam.
Based on the stage play of the same name, The Sapphires recounts the band’s harrowing, real-life experiences upon arriving in Southeast Asia during the bloody Tet Offensive. The movie marks the impressive feature debut of aborigine Wayne Blair, a gifted actor-turned-director who does a remarkable job of subtly recreating the political climate of the turbulent ‘60s.
For instance, he effectively employs the iconic clip of Muhammad Ali refusing to serve in the army (“No Viet Cong ever called me a [N-word].”) to convey the mounting minority opposition to the conflict. Nevertheless, blinded by a combination of naïveté and the pay, our hapless heroines find themselves in the middle of a war zone with little preparation for the unspeakable horrors they are about to witness.
With no choice but to make the best of a bad situation, they proceed to put on a number of very well-received shows, as the tour takes them closer and closer to the frontlines. Amidst the insanity, they somehow find time for reverie, reflection, and even a little romance.
A well-deserved tribute to four Aussie lassies who risked their lives to entertain the boys.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 98 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening March 22, 2013
Admission (PG-13 for profanity and some sexuality). Tina Fey and Paul Rudd co-star in this adaptation of Jean Hanff Korelitz’s best seller of the same name about a straitlaced Princeton admissions officer tempted to bend the rules for an applicant (Nat Wolff) after a friend she hasn’t seen in years suggests that he might be the son she surrendered for adoption as a baby. With Michael Sheen, Lily Tomlin and Gloria Reuben.
Olympus Has Fallen (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity). Gerard Butler stars in this political thriller as a disgraced Secret Service agent who gets a shot at redemption after the president (Aaron Eckhart) is kidnapped and held hostage inside the White House. With Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Angela Bassett and Dylan McDermott.
Dorfman In Love (R for sexuality). Romantic comedy about a frustrated young woman (Sara Rue) trapped at home caring for her unappreciative brother (Jonathan Chase) and widowed father (Elliott Gould) until she gets a new lease on life after volunteering to cat sit for a guy (Johann Urb) she has a secret crush on. Support cast includes Sophie Monk, Scott Wilson and Catherine Hicks.
Eden (R for profanity, drug use, sexuality and disturbing violence). Jamie Chung plays the title character in this fact-based drama recreating the harrowing ordeal of a Korean-American teenager forced into prostitution in Las Vegas after being kidnapped in New Mexico. With Beau Bridges, Scott Mechlowicz and Matt O’Leary.
Hunky Dory (Unrated). Musical drama, set in Wales in 1976, about a high school teacher (Minnie Driver) who mounts a rock ‘n’ roll production of The Tempest in order to shake her apathetic students out of the doldrums. Featuring Aneurin Barnard, Danielle Branch and Robert Pugh.
InAPPropriate Comedy (R for pervasive profanity, crude humor, graphic sexuality and drug use). Politically incorrect comedy examining a computer tablet’s store of offensive apps. Ensemble cast includes Lindsay Lohan, Rob Schneider, Michelle Rodriguez and Adrien Brody.
Love And Honor (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, drug use and brief violence). Romance drama about a heartbroken soldier (Liam Hemsworth) who goes AWOL in Vietnam and returns to the States to win back his girlfriend (Teresa Palmer) after getting dumped. With Aimee Teegarden, Chris Lowell, Wyatt Russell and Austin Stowell.
My Brother The Devil (Unrated). Cross-cultural drama chronicling the challenges faced by a couple of troubled Arab brothers (Fady Elsayed and James Floyd) hanging out on the tough streets of London during their turbulent teen years. With Saïd Taghmaoui, Arnold Oceng and Anthony Welsh.
Silver Circle (PG-13 for violence, drug use, sensuality and brief profanity). Animated political potboiler about a band of freedom fighters who have vowed to wrest control of the American economy back from the corrupt bureaucrats in charge of the Federal Reserve Bank. With voicework by Greg Shea, Robert Dunn, Hyunsoo Moon and De’Lon Grant.
Starbuck (R for profanity, sexuality and drug use). Baby-daddy comedy about a 42-year-old sperm bank donor (Patrick Huard) who suddenly finds himself the defendant in a class action paternity suit filed by 142 of the 533 children he fathered over a decade earlier. Cast includes Julie LeBreton, Antoine Bertrand and Dominic Philie. (In French and Spanish with subtitles)
You Don’t Need Feet ToDance (Unrated). NYC documentary about an African immigrant who doesn’t let the loss of the use of his legs to polio prevent him from earning a living, doing charity work, or performing with a musical group in which he sings, plays drums and dances on his hands.