“Early Man” stars Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall. Released in the United Kingdom on January 26, 2018, followed by a United States release on February 16, 2018, the film is about a caveman tribe who comes across a Bronze Age city.
The film is directed by Nick Park, the creator of Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. So, my original plan was to see this film sometime this week before I get to Samson later on, but with my life pulling some unexpected punches, I had to make some readjustments to my movie-going schedule. That’s obviously the reason why I reviewed Samson first before Early Man. Not the best choice I made, but you know how movies are. They can’t please everybody, especially me. With that out of the way, let’s dive right into Aardman’s latest stop-motion animated feature and see how much it “rocks”. Get it? Because the film takes place in the Stone Age? I’ll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen. So far, Aardman has been knocking it out of the park in terms of its filmography, ranging from Chicken Run back in 2000 to the big-screen debut of Shaun the Sheep, and unsurprisingly, I really enjoyed each and every one of them. Will this one continue its winning streak?
The movie follows a basic underdog sports storyline by telling a tale about a small tribe of cavemen who survives by hunting rabbits every day. Life seems to go very well for this unusual tribe until a Bronze tribe steps into the spotlight and wrecks everything. In order to get their home back, a young caveman named Dug (Redmayne) and his tribe must lead themselves to victory by winning a football match against the Bronze team, and by “football”, I mean “soccer”. Like Aardman’s other films, “Early Man” has its usual British vibe in terms of the dialogue, the cast, and the humor, but still retains its simplistic sense of innocence and charm that both kids and parents can appreciate. If you’re going into this movie expecting an animated masterpiece filled with a complex story and investing characters, there’s a good chance that you might come out of it feeling disappointed. The plot itself is pretty formulaic for Aardman’s standards and the characters themselves were a bit oversimplified despite their likability. However, as an ordinary animated film, it offers plenty of old-fashioned visuals and some fun-loving humor to kick its way to the top. The cast did such fine work voicing their respective characters, including Redmayne as the determined Dug and Hiddleston as Lord Nooth, the film’s antagonist who is as greedy as Prince John from Robin Hood. The film’s use of stop-motion animation is also something to be impressed about. It showcases the hard work that the Aardman crew had done compared to the amount of time spent on creating 2D animation and CGI, including the character designs, the backgrounds, and the football match sequence in the third act. While the story itself failed to capitalize on it, the animation will do wonders for those who grew up with this type of style.
Overall, “Early Man” is no crowd-pleasing masterpiece, but as a simple, family-friendly piece of entertainment, it’s a fun, yet flawed, trip to the Stone Age. Thanks to its likable characters, solid animation, and its smart use of charm and humor, the film once again proves that Aardman isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Even though it’s not one of Aardman’s best works in years, I find it a shame that not a lot of families are seeing it, especially when it’s competing with the likes of Peter Rabbit and Black Panther. I’m guessing that kids are more interested in talking rabbits and superheroes rather than a bunch of cavemen playing soccer, or “football” as the British like to call it. I wouldn’t mind recommending this one to those who grew up with stop-motion animation as well as families with young kids. Just don’t expect it to reach the same heights as Chicken Run or Wallace & Gromit.