Though "Early Man" is not nearly as entertaining as some of Nick Park and Aardman's earlier films, "Chicken Run", "Wallace and Gromit", and "Shaun the Sheep Movie", it does offer some very worthwhile lessons for the kiddies --- and adults. Plus, anything with Eddie Redmayne and/or his voice is gold in my book.
Dug (voiced by Redmayne), Chief Bobnar (voiced by Timothy Spall) and their fellow cavemen --- and women --- live in a glorious valley filled with marvelous greenery and plenty to eat. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has entered the Bronze Age and Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston) wants this lovely domain so he can mine minerals.
Their motley group is banished to the dry lands --- a harsh range above the valley where nothing can exist. When Dug is inadvertently transported to Bronze Age Town and steals a place in the grand coliseum for a game of "football" --- or soccer, as we call it --- an idea forms.
He convinces Lord Nooth to allow his tribe to challenge the elite champions of Bronze Age Town to a match. If Dug's team wins, they get to keep their homeland --- but if they lose, they will spend the rest of their lives mining.
Redmayne's vocals are adorable. He's absolutely charming as the naive Dug, who only wants better things for his fellow man. And Hiddleston is delightfully smarmy as the arrogant boob Nooth. Park voices Hognob, Dug's pet hog, and watching him give Lord Nooth a neck massage and play the harp --- unbeknownst to Nooth --- is quite amusing.
Maisie Williams, Arya Stark of "Game of Thrones", voices Goona, the girl in Bronze Age Town who teaches Dug and his team about football. When they obsess about not being able to beat Lord Nooth's champions, it is she who convinces them they can.
Goona explains that they are beatable because they are NOT a team --- each one of them considers themselves a star. Thus, there is no teamwork. It's a valuable lesson taught in the most perfect way.
Another excellent example for children is the fact that Lord Nooth attempts to ban Goona from playing football because she's a girl. Fortunately for her --- and Dug's team --- Queen Oofeefa (voiced by Miriam Margolyes) quickly overrides that objection.
David is not a fan, but seriously, what does he know? We had a child --- a girl child --- but sometimes I think he forgets that. "Early Man" is a wonderful family film --- especially for all those soccer- playing little girls and boys out there!
Opinion: See It Now!
Aardman Animation Ltd. is the British entity behind the well-known stop action animated films like "Chicken Run" and "Shaun the Sheep Movie", and characters like Wallace, and his dog, Gromit. Their latest effort is called "Early Man". Its director, Nick Park, has earned Academy Awards for three animated short films, and one feature length movie, for a total of four Oscars --- very impressive. He co-directed "Chicken Run" and created the characters in "Shaun the Sheep Movie".
But despite all that notoriety and hardware, "Early Man", didn't click for me. The film boasts high pedigree voice talent, including Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Timothy Spall, Maisie Williams ("Game of Thrones"), and Rob Brydon (Steve Coogan's partner in those "Trip" comedies). So what's wrong?
This story about characters from the Stone Age (the good guys) challenging characters from the Bronze Age (the bad guys) to a soccer match (or "football", as the rest of the world calls it) is mostly dull. The chief writer for "Early Man", Mark Burton, penned the storylines for "Shaun the Sheep Movie" and the first "Madagascar" film, both of which were quite amusing. But his script here is quite ordinary, other than the "message bird", which I found to be a novel character.
There is a lot of preaching going on here, which may be good for its intended audience of kids up to age 10, but not so much for adults. For example, Ms. Williams' character, Goona, is a stud football player from the Bronze Age who agrees to train Dug (Redmayne) and his team from the Stone Age because she is forbidden to play in the giant stadium in the Bronze Age because she is a girl!
My heartiest laugh came at the very beginning when a volcano erupts, and a bird atop a cliff watching the whole event suddenly dons a pair of sunglasses. Why couldn't there have been more of that type of silly, but funny, humor? Meanwhile, Dug's animal sidekick, Hognob, is a wart hog (grunts courtesy of Park himself) that is neither amusing or appealing, but much of the film showcases him.
It does not make me happy to denigrate a movie like this, knowing all the hard work that goes into a stop action film via the collective efforts of hundreds of crew members. And I have no doubt I will be in the minority. Watch this one at home.
Opinion: Wait for DVD