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Review: Early Man

Early Man
7 10

PLOT: After being forced to leave their home, a young caveman must bring his tribe together to fight for what is rightfully theirs from the evil Lord Nooth.

REVIEW: Whenever we get a new feature from the fine folks at AARDMAN, it’s a bit of a treat. They’ve brought us the delightful adventures of WALLACE AND GROMIT, SHAUN THE SHEEP and CHICKEN RUN, and now they have something new to share. EARLY MAN isn’t quite on the level of their previous work, yet it is still a charming animated feature that will give parents something to entertain in, as well as the younger viewers. It may take a few minutes to truly grow on you, but once it does there is quite a bit to admire. And much like previous Aardman tales, it's not exactly the film you may expect with clear inspiration from other genres. Here, the filmmakers have crafted an unexpectedly inspiring sports flick. Yes, this movie with cavemen is about football - or soccer if you live in the US.

When a meteor crashes down on a group of cavemen, it creates a huge crater in the earth. Decades later, deep inside the massive hole, the surviving descendants have made it a home.  However, the “Stone Age” is soon threatened by a greedy French ruler by the name of Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) who is happily embracing the “Bronze Age.” After having his land taken by the villianous Nooth, a young caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) - along with his friends and family - must find a new place to call home. In hopes to win back their land, the young rebel challenges Lord Nooth’s champion football team to a game. This is a battle for honor, and a battle for freedom, yet it is one with a ton of laughs along the way.

early man aardman tom hiddleston eddie redmayne nick park aardman animated

Animation has come a very long way, and we are seeing many features that are nearly photo realistic. However, as a fan of old-fashioned animated storytelling, I’m very grateful for companies like Aardman and Laika for bringing us something classically beautiful. This stop-motion feature directed by Nick Park (CHICKEN RUN, THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT) once again takes us on an adventure with charmingly crude characters and a whimsical sense of fun. However, this is not quite on par with their earlier work when it comes to the story.

Before we meet Dug and friends, we see their ancestors as they unwittingly discover how to play football. Remember that meteor I mentioned? Well it works rather well as a soccer ball. After that, the story veers off slightly in a strange direction complete with a gigantic duck with teeth. It's a bit of a bizarre cinematic experience until the main plot comes into play. EARLY MAN meanders a bit with a few silly hunting jokes, and the story doesn't exactly pull you in immediately. That all changes once Dug and company are kicked out of their home, it suddenly feels like a more familiar underdog sports tale. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the wild and weird in the beginning seems to disappear into a more predictable story.

early man tom hiddleston eddie redmayne nick park aardman nick park

The voice cast is well chosen. Tom Hiddleston is always a terrific villain, and he fully embraces Lord Nooth and his French accent. When it comes to Dug, Eddie Redmayne brings humor and heart to the character and it's a joy to watch. EARLY MAN also features Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Maisie Williams and even director Park as the lovable sidekick, Hognob the pig - the relationship with Dug and the family pet is terrific. Even when the story falls into an all too obvious pattern, it never fully loses its appeal. If you’ve ever watched any movie like LUCAS or REMEMBER THE TITANS, you’ll have a very good idea at what you're getting here.

You do have to give credit to the writers (Mark Burton and James Higginson) for managing to take a story about cavemen and turning it into what it becomes. It’s a very clever way to sell something already familar with audiences. However, the mix of a comedic early man adventure into a football flick makes for a bit of a strange transition at times. Thankfully, you’ll still find plenty to love. This is a very rich world that is a certainly pleasant to visit. EARLY MAN may not be the best work from Aardman, but it is yet another entertaining feature that has the perfect run time of just under ninety minutes. Between this and the recent PADDINGTON 2, it is clear that family films can embrace all audiences without resorting to cheap and obvious toy commercials that call themselves films.

Source: JoBlo.com



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