Family Movies News

The Croods: It's Ancient History for Today's Kids

When my daughter saw the first preview of The Croods (released on DVD this week), she laughed out loud, and couldn’t wait to see it. I felt decidedly less enthusiastic (although not quite as unenthusiastic as I felt about the Smurfs movie, thanks to trauma from babysitting back in the '80s). But I knew the movie would be filled with a bevy of wildly inaccurate elements that would make my took-a-lot-of-anthropology-courses self cringe.

And while this was definitely true, what I didn’t expect was the way the movie gifted me with the opportunity to discuss the history of humanity with my daughter. She’s already a huge fan of our local museum of archeology and anthropology, so she was intensely interested in hearing about the ways the movie was incorrectly portraying humans. 
Here’s what I told her.
#1: Appearance
Eep, the main character of the movie, is a tallish, thin, light-skinned, and light-eyed girl who longs to break away from her father’s rules. She’s quite hilarious and strong, which I love, but in reality, studies show only about 1 percent of Neanderthals had reddish hair and light eyes — a Neanderthal who lived in an arid and/or warm climate would most likely have been short and stocky with dark skin and eyes – and possibly covered with far more fur or hair than humans have today. My daughter thought this was hilarious, particularly the hairy part.

#2: Geography/Geology
In the movie, the Croods have to run and move because of the dramatic breaking apart of the continents. While my mother – a geography professor – would be grateful that the separation of supercontinent Pangea was mentioned at all in a kid’s movie, the truth is it took more than 200 million years to happen, so it’s pretty unlikely that a Neanderthal family would even notice.
#3: Neanderthal vs. Homo Sapien
This was actually my favorite thing to discuss with my daughter. Until this movie, she didn’t know
that at one point in time a different humanoid species existed (my anthropology teacher described Neanderthals as an “evolutionary cul de sac”). However, it’s fairly well documented that, unlike in The Croods, Neanderthals did, actually, use fire quite often – not to mention the fact that they actually had bigger brains than Homo sapiens. 
You’ll be relieved to know I did not point out this errors to my daughter while she watched the movie; instead, we both relaxed and enjoyed the funny story and beautiful animation without commentary. But BOY did we ever have a fun discussion about it.
What movies have you used to teach your kids about history? Tell us in the comments.
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