When prehistoric ’toon The Croods released in 2013 Nic Cage was Ghost Rider, Ryan Reynolds was Green Lantern and Emma Stone was Gwen Stacey. A lot’s changed in the seven years since, especially for history’s first family. In long-awaited sequel A New Age, having left the safety of the cave behind in the name of progress, Grug (Cage), Eep (Stone), Guy (Reynolds) and the rest of the Crood-clan encounter The Bettermans – a more evolved and, yes, better family.
Played by series newcomers Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann and Kelly Marie Tran, the Bettermans serve as both antagonists and allies to the Croods.
“Our purpose in making The Croods 2 is to celebrate, first of all, the Croods coming back,” director Joel Crawford tells GamesRadar+ and Total Film. “And in them coming across another family, it’s to celebrate these very flawed humans coming together and learning that their futures are brighter together. The ridiculous way we get there – the big comedy, the big laughs – is priceless, especially today.”
In an unusual display of confidence for 2020, Universal has moved the film’s release date forward a month in America, where cinemas are still operating at a significantly reduced capacity, though UK audiences will still have to wait till February to get their prehistoric fix.
To mark the Croods’ imminent return, we hopped on Zoom with director Joel Crawford in late August to talk lockdown filmmaking, the dawn of mankind’s first BFFs and what it’s like to direct caveman Nic Cage (edited for clarity).
Your film’s releasing a month earlier than expected in the States. Lockdown must have gone well...
There was some adjustment, but the great thing is, when lockdown happened, we were already on schedule to wrap the movie in the summer, so we had momentum. And then we were like, “Oh, OK, how are we going to do this?” It’s been awesome to see the entire crew figure out creative ways to keep going and not lose the quality. We were at 60% animation when lockdown started, and now we’re wrapped with that. We’re a couple of weeks away from finishing lighting, and we’re going to wrap the movie up from virtual space.
How were the recording sessions with your voice cast affected?
We’ve had to record some of the actors from their homes because of this COVID thing. In fact, two days ago I did my last record with Nic. The frustrating thing is, I’d recorded almost everything with him, but re-recording was a challenge because he found lightning in a bottle the first time, and you’re going, “OK, mimic that.” [laughs] There are so many things in this movie with all of the cast where they found those little lightning-in-a-bottle moments, or these unique, out-of-the-box things – I love tapping into those moments, and making sure that those moments make it into the film.
Is directing Nic Cage as an animated caveman as fun as we imagine?
He’s so fun to watch. [Laughs] Nic always brings 100% conviction and engagement. It’s never just, “Tell me what to do.” It’s always, “I see where you’re going. What if we do this?” And it’s building, right? So there are these things that Nic does where he taps into different kinds of cinematic experiences. There’s a moment in the movie where Grug talks about how much he loves bananas; he’s going on about this kind of wistful time when he tasted one once. It’s already ridiculous, and we had this temp track underneath from Ennio Morricone – the harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West. He heard that harmonica, his eyes narrowed and he goes, “Henry Fonda.” He just channeled the spirit of Henry Fonda. And for that moment, you’re like, “Whoa!”
What took so long to get a sequel to The Croods off the ground?
People loved The Croods, and they’d been trying to make another one… but it’s a high bar. I can say this because I didn’t work on [the first film], it’s a beautiful movie. It’s funny, and it’s about family. I was like, “I want to see the continuation of where we left off with these characters.” Especially with the father/daughter aspect of the first one, and going, “Now that Grug has accepted Guy into his pack, and has this great relationship with his daughter, where do they go from there?”
The first film felt like complete journeys for these characters. How tricky was it to come up with a next step?
The world is always changing, and families also change. As a father, Grug’s maybe not ready for the next step of his daughter leaving home. And with Eep and Guy I thought, “This is a great opportunity to now hand it off to them.” In the first movie it’s like puppy love between Eep and Guy. They meet each other, and they’re in love. But they’re the only two teenagers in the world, so of course they love each other. This story answers the question of why they actually belong to each other. Through the course of this story, we challenge what their relationship means, and why they should spend their future together.
Was it always the idea to introduce a second family?
Yeah, that was there in my first pitch. You have the Croods come across another family, the Bettermans, who are a more evolved family, and these two families couldn’t be more different. The Croods lead with their heart, and the Bettermans lead with their brain. Of course, there’s conflict, they face challenges, but they learn to appreciate each other’s differences – not just to live with each other’s differences but to almost celebrate them. There’s a lot going on. There’s a lot of characters in this one. There’s a lot of wonderful, powerful themes. But it’s a ridiculous comedy too.
It seems from the trailer that Kelly Marie Tran’s Dawn and Emma Stone’s Eep hit it off immediately…
There’s definitely a lane that is driven a lot in romantic comedy type things where the new girl is the cause of jealousy. With Eep and Guy, when this other girl comes into the picture it would have been easy to go, “Oh, she could be the romantic rival.” We made the purposeful decision to not go down that lane. The Croods haven’t come across any other people in the world until now, so when Eep sees this other girl, straight away it’s: “You’re a teenage girl, my age. I have a girlfriend!” I love that moment where she picks Dawn up. She doesn’t have this baggage of high school and jealousy and all of this. And it’s so genuine, and it’s so joyful. And then from the point of view of Dawn, she lives in this paradise, but it’s a gilded cage. She never goes outside her wall. So to come across another girl her age who’s lived this life of adventure – there’s so much excitement. That’s at the heart of our story: celebrating each other’s differences. That’s the catalyst for a friendship – in this case, the world’s first BFFs!
The Croods 2: A New Age is currently scheduled to open in UK cinemas on 5 February 2021.