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Early Man (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 15, 2020

Early Man

EARLY MAN (2018)

Featuring the voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade, Selina Griffiths, Johnny Vegas, Mark Williams, Gina Yashere, Simon Greenall, Rob Brydon, Kayvan Novak, Richard Webber and Nick Park.

Screenplay by Mark Burton and James Higginson.

Directed by Nick Park.

Distributed by Lionsgate. 89 minutes. Rated PG.

The trailers have been awfully vague about the plot of Early Man, so we walked into the theater with no expectations. As fans of Aardman Animation’s earlier work with stop motion clay animation (think Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit), and with Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston leading the voice cast, we knew we would be treated to a film chock full of clever British humor focused on Stone Age characters. But, we knew little more than that.

Turns out, sports fans, it’s a movie about soccer – or football, as properly worded for its British subject matter. Fresh off an Eagles “underdog” win, we get a timely underdog story with the seemingly less adept Stone Agers versus the more modern, better trained, Bronze Agers.

Early Man starts focused on a group of men and women from the Stone Age, content in their valley, hunting small rabbits and living life. Eddie Redmayne voices the youthful Dug, perhaps more advanced than the rest of his tribe. He is in the process of challenging the chief to consider hunting mammoth instead of small prey, when in storm the characters from the Bronze Age.

Led by the mercenary Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston), the Bronze agers drive Dug and his tribe out to the Badlands, a volcanic wasteland outside of the Stone Age tribe’s valley home, so they can mine the valley for bronze.

In search of answers, Dug makes his way to the Bronze village and eventually challenges Lord Nooth to a football match to win back their valley. Cue a Bad News Bears underdog story as the inexperienced Stone Age team trains to play against the hand-picked, elite, Bronze Age football players. They are under the coaching expertise of Goona (voiced by Maisie Williams), a Bronze Age character unable to play for the all-male Bronze team.

A note on clay animation: My daughter spent the better part of September and October working on a clay-animation audition piece for an art school portfolio audition. The level of focus, patience, attention to detail and artistry was incredible to observe in the effort of creating an under two-minute animation.

With its 1-hour-40-minute runtime, Early Man is impressive in the artistry captured in its details, particularly in its capture of sports motion. There is a scene in the Bronze football stadium where Dug inadvertently tests gravity by falling down row after row, hitting every last seat back along the way. I cannot begin to imagine how long that scene took to capture.

Early Man is clever and fun, good for all ages, and great for sports enthusiasts. Perhaps a new generation of future filmmakers will be inspired by the humor and artistry in this latest Aardman Animation feature.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: February 16, 2018.

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