How to Watch 'The Croods: A New Age' Online: Stream the Film for Free on HBO Max. HBO Max is the only place to watch The Croods: A New Age online

The prehistoric family the Croods are challenged by a rival family the Bettermans, who claim to be better and more evolved.

Director: Joel Crawford

Writers: Kevin Hageman (screenplay by), Dan Hageman (screenplay by) 

Stars: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds 

The comparatively charming “The Croods” was the story of an overprotective caveman father named Grug (Nicolas Cage) who came to terms with the fact that his daughter Eep (Emma Stone) had to grow up and take some risks of her own, including falling in love with a boy named Guy (Ryan Reynolds). “The Croods: The New Age” opens with a brief reminder of Guy’s back story and how he became a part of the Croods’ pack, one that also includes mom Ugga (Catherine Keener), son Thunk (Clark Duke), and Gran (Cloris Leachman). Eep and Guy are starting their romance in an increasingly dangerous world. There’s a fun early montage to “I Think I Love You” as the pack avoids life-threatening situations.

Just after Grug discovers that his daughter is considering leaving the pack to start her own with Guy, the Croods stumble upon a fenced-in commune run by the Bettermans—Hope (Leslie Mann), Phil (a great Peter Dinklage), and their daughter Dawn (Kelly Marie Tran). The Bettermans are the city mice to the Croods’ country mice. They compost their garbage instead of just leaving it in the wild; they wear sandals and necklaces and man-buns; Phil even has a literal man cave to retreat to when life gets too hard. All of the civilization is shocking to the Croods, including its bananas and mirrors. Guy has an important history with the Bettermans, which leads to a sort of pack love triangle—will Guy return to the more civilized and predictable world of Dawn Betterman or roam the dangerous plains with Eep Crood?

It’s not a bad starting point, but four credited writers (plus two more credited with the story) can’t figure out how to build on it. The promising set-up gives way to shallow stakes, repeated jokes, and hyperactive visuals. For the record, I have three children under 11, so I have the expertise to say that this is one of the most headache-inducing children’s blockbusters in recent years. No one is expecting nuance in a sequel to “The Croods,” but there’s a balance between that and non-stop noise.

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