The Croods are just your average family… of cavemen. They are: Grug (the overprotective father), Ugga (the loving, nurturing, understanding mother), Eep (the oldest daughter and story protagonist), Thunk (the dimwitted, but lovable brother), Sandy (the somewhat terrifying but adorable baby sister), Gran (the comedic foil and whimsical grandmother), and Guy (the new guy and the Crood’s key to a new beginning).
As is the case with Dreamworks movies, the overall story is secular in nature. And yet, as is the case with so many so-called secular stories, there are a lot of spiritual talking points that arise. So, in keeping with my tradition of offering theological insights about popular family movies, I present the following thoughts:
1. Searching for the light: From beginning to end, this is a story about seeking light. Eep is a restless teenager, tired of living cooped up in the family cave, hiding in the dark. She yearns for something new and different from what she has experienced up until this point. Given even the slightest opportunity, Eep will abandon the familiarity of the cave and rush to the first sign of light she can see.
The Gospel is a story about seeking light, as well. If there is any doubt, just read the first few verses of John. From the beginning of John to the end, light plays a pivotal role on how Jesus is portrayed. Jesus is the very light of hope that was with God from the beginning, that came into the world and fought of the darkness, and that brought the hope of a new day and a new life.
2. Good ol’ grace: Because I am a United Methodist, I am always looking for the evidence of three distinct types of grace: Prevenient, Justifying, and Sanctifying. All three of these were evident throughout The Croods.
- Eep is the very image of a person under the influence of prevenient grace—the grace that “goes before”. This is the grace that paves the way for us to find God. Eep can feel something drawing her away from the darkness of the cave and into the light. She can feel, without being able to express it, that there is something more to life than living in the dark under the authority of rules that oppress rather than give life. Her quest for the light leads her to new places, introduces her to new people, and gives her the hope that more is out there.
- Guy, on the other hand, has taken a step further. He has crossed over into the realm of justifying grace—saving grace. He may not fully understand everything, but he knows that there is something more beyond this life of difficulty because he has seen it. He isn’t wandering in search of something, he has a mission. He knows where is going and he knows what he is looking for. He knows where to find his salvation from the devastation that is chasing after them.
- The Croods and Guy together finally make it to that place where they know they can find salvation, and together they continue to journey toward that always present light. They are living in the power of sanctifying grace, or perfecting grace. Every day is a new adventure and a new opportunity to get closer to the light.
3. Pharisees and Sadducees: Grug is much like the Pharisees and Sadducees that we see standing in opposition to Jesus. He means well enough. And his intentions are good. The rules that he enforces and lays out are not meant to hurt, they are meant to keep his family alive. Grug is a protector who loves his family, but eventually the rules become too much and stifle the drive to live. He is unable to see that what was meant to save has now robbed his family of the very life they wanted to live.
4. Foundations of rock: At a pivotal moment in the film, there are two scenes that are captivating in their simplicity. The first comes when Eep, seeking the source of the light she has seen shining in the dark of night, takes a deep breath and steps away from the stone door of her cave. She keeps her hand against that stone as long as she can. Later, when Grug leaves the same cave in search of his wandering daughter, he too takes a deep breath and steps away from the cave, keeping his hand against the rock as long as possible.
One gets the impression that finally pulling that last finger away from the family sanctuary is difficult and troubling, to the adventurous seeker as well as the set-in-his-ways patriarch. Traditions are not always a bad thing. They only become bad when they stifle the ability of a person to continue to grow or to seek life-giving light. But there is a great deal of worth in traditions, and both Eep and Grug recognize this as they pry themselves lose in an effort to seek something they desire.
5. The Eschaton: This is a fancy way of saying “the end”. In Christian eschatology, whether from the Old Testament or New, usually involves a mountain. I supposed we humans have some sort of inner drive to get as close to heaven as we can get… so it is no wonder that the distant place to which Guy and eventually the Croods are traveling is a mountain.
When they finally arrive at the base of the mountain, the characters look to the sky and see that a great multitude of birds of every kind are flocking to the same peak. In Isaiah 2:3 we see that many people from all over are seeking to go to the Lord’s mountain, to learn God’s ways and to walk in God’s paths. The Croods, it turns out, is just one more group of people seeking a new life on that mountain.
6. Let’s go there! First it is Eep who sees a land of strange new beauty and wants to “go there.” At the end of the movie, it will be Grug who sees a paradise laid out before him and eagerly implores his family to “go there.” And although Guy is already on his way to “there”, he reaches out and invites others to join him on that journey.
Sometimes, the only way that we can get to a place of life is if we are willing to step out of our comfort zone, see the possibilities that lie ahead, trust that we are walking that path with a divine shepherd, and just “go there”. We may never fully know what God has in store for us, but if we aren’t willing to get up and go, we’ll never find out:
Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I sen, and whom will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.”—Isaiah 6:8, CEB
7. Evangelism: And because the gospel story always includes sharing the Good News with others, no list of spiritual talking points would be complete without a look at the ways evangelism is portrayed. Guy is certainly an evangelist. He tells stories about the almost unbelievable place he has seen where the light leads to hope. He invites people to join him in his journey. “Come with me” passes his lips on more than one occasion. And he is the one who says, “Let me show you something” as he leads the Crood family to a place where the heavens and all those millions of points of light are visible.
Evangelism really is that easy. We tell the story about what we have personally experienced with Jesus Christ. We invite people to join us in that journey to get closer to God. And when we have the opportunity, we say, “Let me show you something” and we introduce them to the beauty of Jesus Christ.