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The Croods

Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener | PG |

ANIMATED

The Croods are beasts—grunting, grasping, violent Neanderthals who live in constant fear. “Never not be afraid,” dad Grug (Cage) drills into the rest of the clan as he shoves them back into their cave. But those are the good points. The worst thing you can say about the Croods is that they have terrible timing—just like their movie.

The clock is running out on Grug and his way of life as tectonic plates shift, causing earthquakes and lava flows that force the family out of the cave and into the world. That’s fine by daughter Eep (Stone), who’s looking for change as she chafes under her dad’s thumb. The problem is that the movie arrives a year after the last Ice Age, which had an all too similar plot, if you catch my continental drift. Plus The Croods doesn’t do much with its stale road-trip story, though kids will dig the slapstick humor.

What does work are the vocal performances—especially from Cage, the effervescent Stone, and Reynolds as Guy, the modern dude who steals Eep’s heart—and the animation. Brilliant 3-D graphics paint such vibrant scenes of prehistoric beauty, they remind me of Avatar. If the rest of The Croods had been this inventive, it might’ve been a timeless classic. Instead, it’s a caveman-come-lately.

Spring Breakers

James Franco, Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez | R |

COMEDY-THRILLER

As morally bankrupt, misogynistic odes to violence go, Spring Breakers is well done. That doesn’t mean it should have been done at all. Former Disney princesses Gomez and Hudgens play half of a foursome of college friends, three of whom rob a chicken joint to fund their Florida party break. Director Harmony Korine’s scenes are so artfully shot, they’re poetic. It’s his taste that’s gross, as scores of girls, topless as often as not, writhe around in beer-drenched insanity for his lurid lens. Franco shows up as wannabe thug Alien, hilarious with his grill and cornrows, totally in on the joke. I just can’t shake the feeling that we’re the punch line.

Admission

Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Lily Tomlin | PG-13 |

COMEDY/DRAMA

While this applicant for your movie going choice has fine credentials, I simply cannot recommend it. The plot showed real potential: Fey stars as Portia Nathan, a Princeton admissions officer who once gave up a son for adoption. Rudd plays John Pressman, a high school teacher who thinks his student, gifted senior Jeremiah (Nat Wolff), is Portia’s son. The situation is ripe for an ethics seminar (Should Portia help Jeremiah get into Princeton?), but it’s not funny. Plus, the film commits the rom-com sin of humbling a smart woman so she can get a man. At best it deserves a cable wait-list.

The Sapphires

Deborah Mailman, Chris O’Dowd | PG-13 |

MUSICAL COMEDY

It takes a lot of heart for a group of Aboriginal sisters to croon country music to a white audience in Australia in 1968. What they need, though, is soul. That’s where Dave Lovelace (O’Dowd) comes in as their new manager, introducing the ladies to Motown and booking them on a tour of war-torn Vietnam. The trip, like the film, gets bumpy, dipping into clichés from band tension to drugs. But The Sapphires (based on a true story) is still lovable thanks to its sparkling cast, notably O’Dowd’s boozy Dave and Mailman as the no-nonsense big sister. And then there’s the music—from Otis to Aretha, it’s impossible to sit still.