The Croods hits all the right notes for a kids' movie, and this is a film that will no doubt leave rug rats laughing and smiling at the latest DreamWorks Animation offering.

This is the story of cave family the Croods, who are forced from their home when it is destroyed by major movement of the tectonic plates.

The Croods must then flee across their continent in search of stable ground where they can commence their new life in the coming Iron Age.

The problem is the father of the clan, Grug (Cage), is afraid of everything and believes that survival depends on never taking any chances and remaining in caves at every opportunity. Needless to say, this doesn't get the Croods very far as they set out across exotic lands - inhabited by strange and terrifying creatures - on their odyssey.

Enter their saviour in the form of Guy (Reynolds). This nomadic figure is a forward thinker who captures the heart of Grug's daughter Eep (Stone) and provides the family with outside-the-box ideas, which give them the impetus they need to continue their journey. Guy is their guiding force away from many of the scrapes they get themselves involved in.

The film is very much on the enjoyable side and visually engages from the start with its excellent animation, which seems to pay homage to the simple beauty of classic animation such as The Flintstones. In addition to the animation, the 3D is above the bar and has moments of superb vision and beauty.

But The Croods is not just an optical success. The story, while simple in its premise, engages the viewer; children will most certainly find that there is no sag as the tale is spun at breakneck speed, with developments coming at regular intervals to keep the cavalcade jolting along. Directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders have got the pacing almost bang on with this one.

The script weaves expertly between modern humour and more weighty issues such as martyrdom; the history of evolution; and the inspiration behind the creation of art.

The cast take that script and use it wisely, with the mercurial Nicolas Cage delivering a rounded performance as the cave father Grug.

His rivalry with Ryan Reynolds' character Guy is superb and two very charismatic actors get the chance to play off each other with excellent dialogue. It suits their respective styles and allows them to put some bravado into their performances.

Emma Stone as Grug's daughter is excellent, and like her male co-stars, is given a character of depth to play.

The supporting cast of Catherine Keener as the cave mother Ugga, Cloris Leachman as the cave grandmother and Clark Duke as the cave son are solid in their roles. However, they are a little underwritten and more time and care could have been spent layering those characters to improve some of the scenes.

The film is neither groundbreaking in terms of story or animation, but that should not take away from its solidity as a piece of work.

There is not one element of The Croods that is a major letdown. As a result, the sum of its parts adds up to an engaging movie that draws the viewer in.

Kids' movies that centre on journeys of discovery are many - with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) springing back into my mind as perhaps one of the inspirations for The Croods – and this latest offering is one that will sit proudly in the canon.

Tadhg Peavoy