Think of “The Croods” as the back story of “The Flintstones,” before that modern Stone Age family got, well, modern.
Like Fred, Wilma and Pebbles, the heroes of this cute animated comedy are animal-pelt-wearing proto-humans. Unlike the protagonists of the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon, however, hunter-gatherers Grug Crood (voice of Nicolas Cage) and his wife, Ugga (Catherine Keener), don’t live in an amenity-filled house but in a dark, depressing cave. They’re raising their kids — Eep (Emma Stone), Thunk (Clark Duke) and Sandy (Randy Thom) — as best they can, considering there’s no Internet.
Rounding out the clan is Ugga’s elderly, unpleasant mother. Voiced by Cloris Leachman, the character contributes nothing to the evolution of the shrewish mother-in-law stereotype of sitcom fame.
This world is a scary place, filled with saber-toothed tigers and other dangerous beasties. That’s one nice thing about this film. Because of the prehistoric setting, the filmmakers were free to imagine all sorts of wondrous, extinct critters, of which there is no evidence in the fossil record.