'The Croods: A New Age'

Guy (Ryan Reynolds) and Eep Crood (Emma Stone) in DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods: A New Age,” directed by Joel Crawford.

Seven years after making their debut, everyone’s favorite cave family returns in an all-new adventure that reinforces the theme of “family.” DreamWorks Animation — the studio responsible for the “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” franchises — once again delivers a dazzling prehistoric romp that reunites the voice talents of Nicolas Cage as hairy father Grug, Emma Stone as teenage daughter Eep, and Ryan Reynolds as the object of her affection, boyfriend Guy, who uses a pet sloth named Belt to hold up his pants. “The Croods: A New Age” recaptures the magic of the first film while delivering a fresh story that introduces new characters voiced by Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran.

When we last caught up with the Crood family they had just survived earthquakes, deadly predators, and the continental split to arrive at a seaside paradise they believed to be the place Guy calls “Tomorrow.” Eep is more in love with her modern boyfriend than ever as evidenced by all the cutesy talk and The Partridge Family’s “I Think I Love You.” While Grug has come to accept Eep’s boyfriend as a member of the family, he still believes that Guy is trying to break up the clan especially when he overhears the teenagers talking about getting their own place.

With no food, the hungry family continues their search for “Tomorrow” stumbling across a lush paradise filled with an ample supply of nourishment and a sprawling treehouse where they meet the Betterman family (emphasis on the “better”), hipster dad Phil (Peter Dinklage), wife Hope (Leslie Mann), and daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). As it turns out, the Bettermans knew Guy’s deceased parents and so they welcome the Croods into their home.

Grug is old school and prefers caves over the Bettermans’ walled-in modern home but his wife Ugga (Catherine Keener) and her mom Gran Crood (Cloris Leachman) have already taken to the prehistoric pool while Eep’s brother Thunk (Clark Duke) transforms into a couch potato after becoming fascinated with a “window” which could be seen as a primitive HDTV.

At first Grug and Phil clash but they realize they have the same goal. Phil would like to see Guy paired up with his daughter Dawn, which is fine by Grug who thinks that Guy is taking Eep away from him.

The A-list cast is a pleasure especially Cage who has just as much fun voicing a character as he does with a live role. The 2013s “The Croods” was nominated for an Oscar and it wouldn’t surprise me if “A New Age” receives the same treatment. The animated film is vibrant, dazzling at times, and let’s face it, these are great characters.

Expect new adventures, plenty of laughs, and a thrilling finale that would lead one to believe that the two families have left paradise for Skull Island. “The Croods: A New Age” is the perfect family film to enjoy this Thanksgiving in a CinemaSafe environment.

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Joe Friar is a member of the Critics Choice Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. A lifelong fan of cinema, he co-founded the Victoria Film Society, Frels Fright Fest, and is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.

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