The Croods
Director:
Chris Sanders
Screenplay: Kirk De Micco, Chris Sanders
The original voices of Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, Cloris Leachman

Kicking off a fantastic journey, a fun prehistoric family leaves their cave looking for a new life. Utilizing a simple plot, one largely playing to children, a family of cave-people — father, mother, three kids and a grandmother — are the only survivors in this dangerous world. None of their neighbours have made it – they’ve either been eaten by a dinosaur, crushed by a mammoth, or met their deaths in other prehistoric perilous situations. They are the only survivors. How? Thanks to their fear. The father has taught his children that they will only survive by staying away from the dangers of the world…

In this vein, the family keeps on living a “quiet” existence among the dark walls of their cave, only venturing out to look for food. However, this way of living doesn’t offer a fulfilled life. The first to realize it is the oldest daughter, who bravely defies her father’s edicts. It is when she decides to break the rules and adventure into the unknown that everything changes. Thanks to her and a boy (Guy, who is different because he fully trusts the future) the Croods will meet during their adventure, the entire family will learn to appreciate the beauty and good in the world that surrounds them — even while managing to escape the terrible ecological disaster that is coming.

Guy doesn’t just teach them how to survive, but how to live without allowing fear dominating them. Ultimately, the Croods understand the real evolutionary jump — real life can only happen by knowing oneself, others and the whole world.

Another interesting aspect of this fantastic journey is the way family relationships are portrayed. In particular, the relationship between father and daughter is delicately and realistically shown, while using an effective dose of humour. The rough and primitive father has spent his entire life protecting his family and is now forced to take chances, overcoming his vision of the world, so that his family can continue to survive. He has to renounce fear in order to embrace hope, and in this animated movie (as in real life) that is harder than it seems.

With its humour and cheerfulness, The Croods manages to both entertain and convey a deeper meaning to children and their parents.

Problematic elements: none 

 

Zambezia

Director: Wayne Thornley
Screenplay: Wayne Thornley,
Anthony Silverston, Andrew Cook, Raffaella Delle Donne
The original voices of Jeremy Suarez, Abigail Breslin, Leonard Nimoy, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeff Goldblum 

Zambezia, a fabulous city of birds located in a huge monkey bread tree on the edge of a waterfall. When a young hawk is told of Zambezia, he decides to leave his home in the desert, defying his father who wants to protect him from the dangers of the world. However, when Budzo, an evil lizard who plans to attack and destroy Zambezia, captures his father, Kai will have to learn to work as part of a team to save him, his friends and the entire city.

Zambezia is an animated movie that is striking for its vivacity and scenes that sparkle with colour. It is even more striking when we consider that it is not an American work but is, rather, the most successful movie that has ever been produced in South Africa. Not only are the images truly remarkable, but also South African composer Bruce Retief has created a beautiful soundtrack. Most important of all, however, is that the story is poignant and really enjoyable — although the names of the characters may be a bit difficult for children to memorize.

From the very beginning, the viewers are pulled into a story where they witness the lack of fulfillment by Kai, a young hawk full of energy and an adventurous spirit who is forced by his apprehensive father to live in a wasteland without friends. Kai only wants to see the world and to know other animals. It is a casual meeting that pushes him to take his chance: a strange group of birds land near his nest and tell him of a fantastic world where birds live happily together. But something else increases Kai’s curiosity — those birds appear to know his father, who has never told him of Zambezia. Thus, Kai makes the decision to listen to his heart and leave, disobeying his father.

The new world is a continual discovery of friends and possibilities. One such possibility is becoming a Hurricane — one of the heroic birds who watch the sky to keep Zambezia safe. But, as always, being free also means added responsibility, and for Kai, leaving his father means exposing himself to unpredictable dangers. The main danger is the gigantic lizard Budzo, who wants to destroy Zambezia with the help of a gang of Marabù — ugly birds that crave revenge for their exile from Zambezia.

The Marabù’s story is a tale within the tale that tells how people can turn evil just for feeling excluded. Indeed these birds, initially described as dark and dangerous, will reveal more good and noble qualities than the Zambezia’s people expect when Kai manages to see through them and read their true nature. The final message is also poignant: the chance of victory against evil sits on trusting real friendships and the power of community, while renouncing individual pride.

Problematic elements: none.

Ilaria Giudici lives in Turin. She is a story editor and scriptwriter at LuxVide (especially for the TV series Don Matteo) and recently as author at RaiGulp, a major national TV channel for children and teenagers.