Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Never don't be afraid."

Welcome to Wednesday and "Tales From the Script."  In the spirit of our Nano theme this week we'll look at "The Croods."  What's the tie in?  When I finished Nano, I watched it.

I suppose I should have written on "Water for Elephants" but I haven't read the book, seen the movie, or even read the script.  Why "Water for Elephants?"  The novel began as a Nano entry.

Enough about would've, could've, and pachyderms.  On with “The Croods.”  (A DreamWorks Animation production about a family of Cavemen who make a road trip with cute animals.)  (Nicholas Cage voices the lead and was very(!) good.)

The Croods

First off, let me say that I was surprised by this film.  It was not what I was expecting (do NOT read unpredictable).  There were a lot of things they did right and the script still made me laugh out loud even though I had just watched the movie and was late because the trains were all messed up.  I actually decided, as I finished the last page while pulling into my station, that universe conspired to make the entire rail system of Northern Virginia malfunction just to give me time to finish it.  Sorry everyone.

If you watch animated films or have children/grandchildren, you will most likely enjoy “The Croods.”  Spoilers follow so if you don't want to know the ending before you've watched the first five minutes of the movie, see you tomorrow for Must See TV Thursdays.

Problems first, because there were only two and I don't want to end on a negative.  The first problem was the introduction.  It took far too long to get to the story because they introduced the family twice.  Once in an extended voice over title sequence, and then again when the Croods actually come out of their cave for breakfast.  One or the other, please, but not both.  By the time Eep (teenage daughter) is sneaking out, we're sick of setup.  I was, anyway.  The other issue was how predictable the story was.  There was never any suspense, or question about what was going to happen.  But it was a kid’s movie so they haven't seen the formula a hundred billion times and I'm sure that the Macawnavore is plenty suspenseful for younger tykes.

The good?  I'll start with the obvious.  The Crood family is not crude.  They love each other very much and it shows.  There's lots of familial bantering but it isn't offensive and they never took the low, easy road for a quick laugh.  The characters are distinct and consistent, but stereotyped too. Again, however, I think it plays to the younger audience and in one scene they actually poke fun at the typecasting when the jock says to the nerd, "Ideas are for weaklings."

The humor is steady throughout the entire 91 pages of the script.  It establishes early on that the story is more "Flintstones" than "Clan of the Cave Bear."  Boulders crash, animals eat people and spit them out, grannies are tossed in the air, and silly things just sort of happen -- but it's all funny and doesn't get old 45 minutes in.  It also doesn't dry up for the last 5 minutes.  It’s probably the most impressive feat of the authors.

The script was an easy read but again I was struck by the double introduction of the family.  Everything of importance happens after "The... End" - da daah daaaaaahhhh.  Let's get there faster.  This script was the closest to the actual finished movie that I've read.

The script is clear.  I've been told to focus on “clarity over poetry” in my screenwriting and The Croods nailed that.  There are paragraphs that are on-the-nose clear about who is doing exactly what, hardly a single pronoun.  But it didn't matter, the story was... clear.

This was not the best movie ever.  It was not my favorite animated film.  But it was better than “Monsters University” and I certainly won't mind seeing it again.  Or listening to the stellar voice acting and witty dialogue in the car, stuck in traffic, refusing to quit driving just because it's taking forever, while my children watch it in the back.

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