Nearly a decade later, DreamWorks' The Croods remains a delightful romp with a simple if not also a rather generic story about family and evolving with an ever-expanding world. The CG-animated comedy-adventure survives extinction on Ultra HD with an exceptional 4K presentation, an outstanding DTS:X track but the same set of bonuses. Nevertheless, the overall UHD package is highly recommended for a fun family night at home.
Viewed from our current sociopolitical climate and lens, there is a new level of appreciation for DreamWorks' The Croods worth mulling over, if not at least admiring. The animated comedy about a rigidly patriarchal cave family presided over by a fear-mongering father (Nicolas Cage) works as some kind of accidental prophetic vision of extremist, alarmist viewpoints. The character literally promotes and institutionalizes the idea that fear is the best means of survival and spouts dialogue like, "New is always bad! Never not be afraid" and "Big words anger me." All the while, he practically intimidates his family to shelter in a dark cave and to only regard the rest of the world from this very limited perspective.
With his rebellious, curious teen daughter (Emma Stone) crushing on the always inventive, think-outside-the-box Guy (Ryan Reynolds), Grug's coldly stringent and fixed assumption of the world is constantly challenged and even threatened. Of course, this has always at the central theme of the script: a protective father learning to let their child be their own person. It's just funny and deeply ironic that recent events have brought a new light to Grug's journey of personal growth and introspection, or rather, that it really highlights the danger of always perceiving the world, new ideas, curiosity and change as something to be feared and avoided at all cost. It just makes this CG-animated favorite all the funnier and more enjoyable.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out our review of the 2013 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Universal Studios Home Entertainment and DreamWorks bring The Croods to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack that includes a Digital Copy code. When redeeming said code via Movies Anywhere, users have access to the 4K UHD version with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The triple-layered UHD100 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to a static screen with the usual options along the bottom, music playing in the background and quick access to special features along the left side of the screen.
Everyone's favorite cave family takes refuge on Ultra HD with a first-rate HEVC H.265 encode that boasts a fuller, more vibrant array of colors. In fact, it's the first thing that predictably stands out in this upscaled transfer, showering every scene with bold, sumptuous primaries, like the candy-rose reds in various plants, the lively shamrock and emerald greens of the vegetation, and the cobalt to cerulean blues in the skies and mountains. Secondary hues, ultimately, take the win in this 4K video, flaunting fuller, more dynamic shades of orange from Eep's hair to scenes with fire while golden, buttery yellows add warmth. Pinks also show a bit more range, like the small differences in the fuchsia of some flowers to the hot bubblegum pinks in the clouds. The same goes for those subtle variations in the purples and violets to the lavenders and lilac shades in the surrounding foliage and sunset skies. It's worth mentioning there are hints of very mild banding here and there, but thankfully, it's nothing too distracting or flagrant.
Overall, the HDR10 presentation is noticeably brighter and more vivid than its HD SDR counterpart thanks to the improved contrast balance and the intensely brilliant whites. Crisp, radiant specular highlights maintain crystal-clear clarity in the hottest spots while also adding a bit more pop and energy to the action-packed visuals. Likewise, black levels have a deeper, more accurate inky-richness to them, and shadow details are outstanding, providing the 2.35:1 image with a great deal of dimensionality and cinematic appeal. The animation also enjoys a welcomed uptick in definition with the fine lines in the clothing and the prehistoric landscape looking cleaner and sharper. The individual hairs and the minor blemishes in the characters are much more distinct and plainer to make out, which are often quite impressive and make for an exceptional watch on UHD. (HDR10 Video Rating: 88/100)
The animated comedy-adventure survives extinction thanks to an excellent DTS:X soundtrack that immediately throws viewers into this prehistoric world with various ambient effects bouncing from every direction of the room. Whether it's the sounds of wildlife moving across the ceiling, voices echoing all around or the random bits of debris from the chaos raining down from above, the 3D audio maintains an outstanding hemispheric soundfield for a majority of the runtime. The front soundstage continuously feels broad and expansive with various background noise flawlessly panning between the three channels and into the top heights for an engaging half-dome wall of sound. With precise, well-prioritized vocals throughout, the object-based mix also displays an extensive and dynamic mid-range, exhibiting superb clarity in the upper frequencies during action sequences while supplying a great deal of warmth and clean definition in the score. The low-end could arguably be a tad stronger to better complement the magnitude of the visuals, but bass is nonetheless plentiful and abundantly weighty to satisfy and make for a fun listen. (DTS:X Audio Rating: 94/100)
The same set of bonuses are ported over for this Ultra HD edition, minus the trailers, which can still be enjoyable on the accompanying Blu-ray disc.
When it originally released in cinemas, I remember liking DreamWorks' The Croods but never really thought much else of the tale about a cave family forced to relocate and adapt to new circumstances. Nearly a decade later, I found myself laughing more and enjoying their prehistoric hijinks more, particularly the alarmist patriarch's neanderthal views slowly yet comically being chipped away to see the world in a new light. The CG-animated comedy-adventure survives extinction on Ultra HD with an exceptional 4K HDR10 presentation and an outstanding DTS:X soundtrack, surpassing its Blu-ray counterpart. Porting over the same set of bonuses, the overall UHD package is highly recommended.