Early Man | Nick Park | February 16, 2018
British animation studio Aardman have returned with Early Man, its latest stop-motion flick. Early Man is also the latest from Nick Park, the man responsible for the two equally-beloved Wallace and Gromit and Shaun The Sheep, as well as Chicken Run.
After an opening sequence that shows the extinction of the dinosaurs and an interesting bit in prehistoric Manchester, England where a batch of cavemen accidentally stumble into creating the game of football (or soccer to some Americans), the film zooms ahead to the Stone Age, where the story (written by Mark Burton and James Higginson) takes place.
We are introduced to a tribe of cavemen through the eyes of eager Dug (Eddie Redmayne), an eager caveman who wants their chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) to lead the tribe to hunt giant Wooly Mammoths instead of settling for measly rabbits. As lovable and good-hearted as the rest of the clan is, they aren’t the brightest bunch. Their daily routine is disrupted one night by a colonizing army led by the greedy Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), who drives the tribe out of their homes in order to strip their land to produce bronze. The rest of the film sees Dug try and rally the rest of the tribe (and some new friends) to get their land back, and let’s just say that there’s an interesting reason the game of football is worked into a movie set in England with cavemen as the lead characters – if you want a huge hint.
While this doesn’t have the emotional arc or charm that a lot of Park and Aardman top-tier work has, there are still plenty of fun moments to be had and enough well-spread witty humor that you just don’t find quite as often in the same way with American comedies, either live-action or animated. There’s plenty of that welcome British humor that will go over some heads stateside, but it’s this quirkiness that definitely plays to its advantage.
Aside from Dug, his loyal pet companion Hognob (Nick Park) and Lord Nooth, the rest of the characters that make up Early Man aren’t as well-defined or memorable as I would’ve liked, which did hold Early Man from leaving a stronger impression on me.
But with a voice cast consisting of the previously mentioned Redmayne, Hiddleston, Spall, and Park, as well as Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, and Richard Ayoade, there’s enough talent to pick up the slack and offer enough to make this an easy 89-minute stop-motion adventure that will be an enjoyable time at the theaters for family members of all ages