A clip from Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Watching The Croods on Netflix I couldn’t help thinking about what the scientist said in Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams. He said something to the effect of how fascinating it was to think that at one point in history there were two species of man in existence at the same time.
I forget which ones he said but for the sake of convenience, let’s just say it was Homo Sapians and Neanderthals. Middle school science is my earliest recollection of being taught about human evolution. I don’t remember ever being taught about the overlap in human species or maybe it was just my own ignorance and lack of imagination that prevented me from considering that there had to be an overlap as one species died out to allow the development of a new one. If you’re interested, the Smithsonian has a nice site depicting the evolution of man.
While The Croods is set in an imaginary prehistoric planet complete with giant plants and animals, it is pretty easy to correlate the characters in the story to examples of human evolution in the real world. For example, the hominins in the story are bipedal and dress in the familiar animal fur and skins from museum exhibits on early man and the Flintstones.
You could easily interpret the Croods, the family the movie is named after, as the older species of man. They are depicted with exaggerated features like the stereotypical protruding brow and the hunched gait. Guy, the only non-Crood family hominid in the story would be the newer, evolved species with his more refined brow and more upright gait.
If you take away the imaginative setting, the animation, and the creative creatures, The Croods is a story about a father having to overcome his personal hangups and get out of his comfort zone for the good of his family. As referenced in the trailers, Grug, the dad, is afraid of “new” things and compels his family to squelch their curiosities in favor of a safe routine. His daughter, Eep, doesn’t share his fear or the rest of the family’s compliance, so she is at constant odds with him.
Her defiance bears her the chance meeting of Guy, the only survivor of his tribe. Predictably, Guy’s embracing of the “new” and his curiosity have helped him develop many useful habits and tools like using a torch to disperse a flock of dangerous red birds and (from the trailer) shoes. Guy is running from the “end of the world”, a series of giant earthquakes that is violently changing the landscape. The Croods take him prisoner and together they travel to the “sun” where they will be safe from the quakes.
There are no twists or surprises in The Croods but it is far from dull. It satisfyingly tells the story of a family’s journey from a familiar home to a new one. It successfully depicts the process of a father’s personal growth and demonstrates his commitment to his family. There is a particularly good scene where Grug’s paternal instincts save Guy, who up to that moment he has seen as a competitor. But my favorite moment is when Grug is separated from his family.
WARNING SPOILERS: Grug takes shelter in a cave and upon realizing he may not see his family again, he begins to capture their story in a cave painting. I was really moved by this (I told my children an eyelash had gotten into my eye). This is where I wish the movie would have ended or that there was a series of shots depicting the cave painting aging over the course of time. Then one day, modern man stumbles onto it (maybe Herzog and his crew) and the story is retold of a father providing for his family, the monotony of daily chores, the shared joys and celebrations, and the sacrifices that needed to be made.