"The Croods" has its own kind of, ahem, "crood" charm.

Yes, there's lots of punching and smacking, fighting, rolling around, chasing, ugly faces, insults and did we say? fighting.

And that's just the Crood family of cavemen or is it cave persons? and doesn't include the prehistoric creatures.

Admittedly, I resisted seeing "The Croods." It was a case of 3D-animation feature overload. Also, I may have been wondering how "The Croods" could improve upon TV's "The Flintstones" (1960 - '66) for me the tabula rasa of prehistoric humor.

So, I saw "The Croods" in 2D. After all, it was $17 at the multiplex for the first-run "Oz the Great and Powerful" which wasn't.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by "The Croods," which will be enjoyed by the under-10 crowd.

And, while "The Croods" doesn't have the wink-wink, nod-nod jokes, double entendre jibes and snarky dialogue of most contemporary animated features, parents nonetheless will be impressed with the quality of the DreamWorks' animated feature.

My favorite line in "The Croods" is Gran Crood describing her first love: "He was a hunter. I was a gatherer."

"The Croods" is gorgeous to view. When the journey to the huge twin-peaked mountain (not unlike the Emerald City in "The Wizard of Oz" or Cinderella's Castle at Walt Disney World or Disneyland) begins, the colors are vivid. The flora and fauna are delightful. The sense is that of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

The characters are something to behold. The skin texture, hair styling and those chic cave-person fur-covered outfits are wonderfully detailed. The facial expressions are very believable.

Nicolas Cage is especially great voicing Grug, father Crood. Cage's voice is engaging and intimate with careful enunciation, for which he's often been chastised in his live-action roles. With animation, where vocal inflection, emphasis and expression is key, Cage is well-cast.

Less memorable but fine are the voices of Ryan Reynolds as Guy, the boyfriend; and Emma Stone as Eep, the daughter, who is more or less the film's protagonist.

When Eep and Guy meet, it's fight at first sight. Well, this is prehistoric dating.

In supporting voice roles for the Crood clan are Catherine Keener as Ugga, Cloris Leachman as Gran, Clark Duke as Thunk, Chris Sanders as Belt, and Randy Thom as Sandy.

The symphonic score, with original music by Alan Silvestri, enhances the quest.

"The Croods" begins with interesting 2D animation with a clever take on prehistoric cave paintings.

The language is modern. "You're grounded," father Grug tells daughter Eep .

The film is written and directed by Kirk De Micco ("Space Chimps," 2008) and Chris Sanders ("How to Train Your Dragon," 2010; "Lilo and Stitch," 2002), based on a story by De Micco, Sanders and John Cleese of Monty Python fame.

The film does a bit of philosophizing about "following the rules," of which, Eep says, "This one's painted on a cave wall in our home."

There are some bromides about taking risks, courage and "following the light."

The storyline is cliched: father pitted against the boyfriend. There are scary monsters at every turn. It's also the end of the world as prehistoric man knew it.

The screenplay hits on a number key points without which civilization would not have marched on: fire, flying, shoes, and pets. You can't have civilization without being civil. Even the Crood family realizes that.

The movie theater lobby poster for "The Croods" trumpets "The journey begins."

"The Croods" is a big hit. DreamWorks, you might say, has struck "Crood" oil.

Expect a sequel. This is one family, I would like to see evolve.

"The Croods," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for some scary action; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family; Run time: 1 hr., 38. minutes; Distributed by 20th Century Fox (the first DreamWorks animated feature to be distributed by 20th Century Fox).

Credit Readers Anonymous: Stay to the very end of the credits for "The Croods" to see three animated blue elephants cavorting and honking their snouts. "Shine Your Way" by Owl City is heard during closing credits. Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk" is heard on the soundtrack.

Box Office, April 12: "Evil Dead" opened at No. 1, $26 million, with "The Croods" holding at No. 2, $21.1 million, $125.8 million, three weeks, and "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" dropping from No. 1 to a tie at No. 2, with $21.1 million, $86.6 million; and the re-release of "Jurassic Park" in 3D opening at No. 4, with $18.2 million, $375 million;

5. "Olympus Has Fallen," $10 million, $71.1 million, three weeks; 6. "Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," $10 million, $38.3 million, two weeks; 7. "Oz the Great and Powerful," $8.1 million, $212.7 million, five weeks; 8. "The Host," $5.2 million, $19.6 million, two weeks; 9. "The Call," $3.5 million, $45.4 million, four weeks; 10. "Admission," $.2 million, $15.3 million, three weeks;

Unreel, April 12:

"42," Rated PG-13. With the start of Major League Baseball season, here's one to root for. It's a biopic based on the story of Jackie Robinson and his breaking the so-called color barrier when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson. Harrison Ford plays Dodgers executive Branch Rickey.

"Scary Movie 5," You know the drill. A pop culture commentary masquerading as a horror-movie spoof. What's really scary about is that Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan co-star.

"To the Wonder," R: All you need to know is that iconoclastic Terrence Malick directed it. Did you see "The Tree of Life"? Oh, and "To the Wonder" stars Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams.

This review is dedicated to the memory of Roger Ebert, the well-known and highly-regarded newspaper and television film critic, who died April 4 at age 70.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress.com; and the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes