Early Man (2018) – Film Review
It’s a measure of their Hollywood success that Aardman Animation, with four-time Oscar-winning director Nick Park, continues to make appealing stop-motion films of the quality of Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and Chicken Run – their latest effort Early Man is sure to be popular too.
Their latest film sees Eddie Redmayne voice Dug – a caveman who, along with his best friend Hognob (a pig voiced by Park himself), tries to unite his tribe against Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston in full moustache twirling Python-esque sneering European “French” scenery chewing mode) and his Bronze Age city to save their lush valley from being mined by the ‘superior’ civilisation for valuable metals.
Nooth’s Bronze Age army takes control of the resource rich valley where Dug’s tribe live in peace.
Rather than declaring all-out war Nooth and Dug agree to to have a high stakes game of football to decide the fate of Dug’s tribe and their valley.
With their home at stake Dug (with help from Hognob, who can be compared to Gromit) must train his hapless tribe in the art of the beautiful game and win a vital match in order to make the invading army leave.
British humour in a film which kids will enjoy
It’s probably easy to worry a bit about how some of the peculiarly British humour will translate across the world. It certainly begins veering unashamedly into Monty Python territory from the start – no bad thing for the laughs factor.
There’s a lot of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sight gags throughout this film so you have to be paying attention to get most of them in a story which is clearly Wallace and Gromit meets Escape to Victory via Gladiator.
British football fans may get a few obvious extra laughs out of the storyline but the subtle visual gags, especially the silent ones, are where some of the best laughs are well hidden. Some are in plain sight but you might never see them all unless you get the DVD in due course and give it another couple of watches.
Don’t assume that you’ll dislike it if you’re not a football fan, though, as there’s plenty to see during the breezy 90 minute run time including some topical comment too.
One slight misstep, though is the use of a mild swear word which might rule this film out for the very young – although a scary ‘dinosaur’ might also have been part of the reason for the PG certificate.
By all means stay till the end of the cast credits for extra sketches of the characters in Early Man – some very nice art work there.
But while there is the briefest of end-of-credits tributes to Ray Harryhausen at the very end of the long credits it’s not worth hanging around for, especially if you’re with family.
Early Man (PG; infrequent mild bad language, threat; 89 minutes)
Director: Nick Park
Cast Includes: Eddie Redmayne (voice), Maisie Williams (voice), Tom Hiddleston (voice), Richard Ayoade (voice), Timothy Spall (voice), Mark Williams (voice), Rob Brydon (voice)
Summary: EARLY MAN is an animated comedy in which a caveman tribe must learn to play football in order to regain their homeland from a conquering civilisation.
Rating: **** (A wonderfully eccentric, and funny, British animation from the makers of Wallace and Gromit)