This is out a little late, but it's got spoilers so I'm fine with that.
The Croods was not what I expected. The trailers promised a re-tread of the "Dad never lets me do anything" story, this time set in a fanciful pre-history full of monsters that never made it into the fossil record. The film itself delivered something different. See, from the trailers I expected the red-haired cavegirl to be our protagonist. But a protagonist, at least in terms of story structure, is a character who has a specific need or desire, a goal, and has an arc, a path of personal change, after which they reach that goal, or get to a point where they don't need it, or maybe they simply fail (but I don't like that last sort of story much. Tragedy? Yuck.)
Guess what? The red-headed cave girl, Eep, is not our protagonist. She gets what she needs -- adventure outside the cave -- rather early in the movie, and is positioned for an entire life of that, even if that life might be rather shorter than anybody would like.
Her father Grug, however, has a strong arc. He desires to feed and protect his family. It's something he has at the beginning of the film, and then his ability to deliver is taken from him. Every strategy he has developed no longer applies, and his brain simply isn't built for coming up with new strategies. He descends deeper and deeper into failure while everyone else seems to enjoy the adventure.
Here come the spoilers. Hey, it's been a week. That's not exactly statute-of-limitations time, I know, but you've been warned. You have the power to stop reading.
There is a pivotal scene, and I do mean pivotal, in which Grug can reach his goal. The one thing he's good at -- being physically strong -- will let him save the family, but only by throwing them across a chasm to safety while he remains behind. So he does. He's a good father, a good protector.
And then the movie follows HIM instead of the family.
Hey, as plot-twists go this is no Sixth Sense reveal, but it really was wrenching. One moment you're rooting for Eep and the others as Grug gets his comeuppance for being dumb and unwilling to change, and then you realize that Grug is the one we really care about.
As a father of four who fancies himself a protector and provider, as a man with a pair of teenage daughters who have their hearts set on seeing more than just the cave walls, as a husband to a care-giver who often drags me in directions I didn't know the family needed to go, I wholly and completely identify with Grug.
And for that reason, this film rates pretty highly for me. Also, it was very well done. I laughed and I cried. And I might have cheered just a little.