Commentary on The Croods, Plato’s Cave, and the Spiritual Life

2013/04/14

“The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

I recently attended the movie The Croods. While I do not recommend this movie due to its sappy nature, predictable plot, shoddy writing, and historically anachronistic dialogue, I did find many comparisons with this movie and Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

This is probably going to be filled with spoilers. So if you’re going to see the movie, first of all, don’t, and secondly if you must go see it, read this afterwards.

If you are unfamiliar with Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, let me give you a brief synopsis: 

There is this cave (see picture), and in this cave there are prisoners chained to the wall. They are chained in such a way so that they can only look forward. Behind them and raised up is a fire. There also men who run past the fire with puppets, casting shadows on the wall at which the prisoners look. These shadows are the only thing these prisoners know.

One day, one of the prisoners gets loose. He runs out of the cave and out into the sunlight. At first, the bright sun hurts his eyes, but once his eyes adjust to the light of the sun, he recognizes the beauty of the outside world. He returns to the cave and tells his fellow prisoners about what he has seen and that the shadows are mere illusions. He is ridiculed for what he says.

Confused? Google it. You can read the entire thing online.

Not as brief an explanation as I was hoping, but you get the point. The main idea is that there is something more than what we see. At first, the realization of the truth is painful because it requires a change, but in the end, we see the beauty in the truth. However, those who have not discovered this truth feel threatened by the truth and mock those that have come to know the truth.

Now, back to The Croods…….

The Croods is about a family (The Croods) of cavemen (or cavepeople if you want to be politically correct). The patriarch of the family, Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage), is extremely protective and only allows the family to go out when it is time to go out to get food. He often tells his family stories, and the morals of the stories are: new is bad and fear is good. However, Grug’s daughter, Eep (Voiced by Emma Stone), is quite rebellious (how original!). She longs to be free of the cave and explore life outside of the cave. As one might expect, she butts heads with her father (once again just terrific writing here……not). 

One night Eep sneaks out and meets a strange young man named Guy, and, no, it is not pronounced the French way (the creativity behind that name just astounds me!). Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds) introduces Eep to fire and tells her the world is ending (Oh the sarcastic comments I’m holding back here!). Well, to make a long story short, the next day an earthquake hits, the cave is destroyed, and the Croods find themselves in a strange land with Guy as their guide. Shockingly (more sarcasm) Grug is less than thrilled with following Guy around. Grug is appalled by all of Guy’s new ideas, but the rest of the Croods think Guy is delightful. Furthermore, Grug and Guy spar over where they should be headed. Grug wants to find another cave, but Guy wants to find higher ground and leads the Croods towards a mountain.

Throughout this journey, we see a slow painful growth from Grug. By the end of the movie, he is more like Guy than Guy is. There is a difficult moment at the end of the movie where it appears as though the world ending will destroy them after all, even though they have reached the top of the mountain (I’m as confused as you are, and I saw the movie……once again, more shoddy story telling……just pure crap). Guy and his entourage/cheerleaders freak out and start retreating to seek out another cave. It is at this moment that Grug steps up and becomes the hero, leading everyone to safety and rejecting the idea of going back into a cave.

My guess is that, since this is Hollywood, they are trying to say that those who believe in God are the cavemen, and that they need to exit the cave, evolve, and become atheists. HOWEVER, this wannabe theologian/philosopher isn’t going to let that happen!!!

The connection between The Croods and Plato’s Cave is undeniable. The world outside the cave is beautiful, and Grug experiences growing pains adjusting to this truth. It is here that the secular philosopher will want to steer you towards atheism, but let me make the argument for God. 

The whole time they are headed for a mountain. Let’s look once again at the quote I used at the beginning of this blog post:

“The higher we go, the better we shall hear the voice of Christ.” - Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati loved mountain climbing. Shortly before his death (from Polio which he contracted visiting the poor and the sick), he was climbing a mountain and a picture of him was taken. When he saw this picture, he flipped it over and wrote “Verso L'alto!” on it. “Verso L'alto!” roughly translated means “To the heights!”. Blessed Pier Giorgio, like many other great Saints, saw the connection between the mountains and the spiritual life. One must climb to the heights of knowledge and wisdom and there find God. He is not beneath our human wisdom; He is beyond it. This is why Blessed Pier Giorgio’s quote is so pertinent. When one ascends beyond one’s natural altitude, things begin to be put into perspective. For many Christians throughout the ages, climbing mountains and getting out into nature alone was a great way for them to encounter the Lord. It is there they reflected on creation, and creation reflects its creator, allowing the Christian a deeper relationship to their creator.

As the Croods ascended, there is a dramatic change in Grug. He begins to adjust to what he discovers beyond the cave. He sees the world for how beautiful it is and recognizes it as good. At the top of the mountain, like our faith life occasionally, things begin to crumble. They are at the summit about to walk into the land of which Guy had dreamed (the promised land, if you will), but the earthquake hits. A great chasm is formed between them and where they want to go (which is what toooooootally happens in real life earth quakes………..seriously though, when will Hollywood take an Earth Science class?). Smoke and dust rise, blocking their view of their destination. While all seems hopeless and all around him his family and his new friend Guy are retreating towards a new cave, Grug sees a glimmer of hope. He sees light just above the smoke. He declares, “No more caves! We have to follow the light!”.

So too do we have to follow the light in our own lives. But, what is that light? A better question is: Who is that light? That light is Jesus Christ.