Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Friday, February 16, 2018
Movie Review: Early Man
Early Man is a British animated stop-motion movie from the creators of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. It has a particular look and feel that has become familiar and a type of humour that is absurdist English that has garnered fans around the world. The movie written by Mark Burton and James Higginson and directed by Oscar-winning Nick Park is an Aardman Animations and BFI production distributed by StudioCanal.
In the thirty years that the team behind Wallace and Gromit began, stop motion has advanced greatly but not so far as to remove the occasional thumb print in the clay that is endearing to the art form. There is an old school feel to work and although this an original tale, it comes from the same family of characters except in this case back to pre-historic times.
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) voices Dug, a caveman with aspirations. He is curious why his tribe only hunts rabbits and what the round object everyone is chasing in the cave drawings. As we come to learn, the round object is a soccer ball and the ancestors of the tribe invented the game. As for why they hunt only rabbits, it quickly becomes clear his tribe is lucky to catch even those adorable creatures. Dug is accompanied by his trusty hog friend in his adventures by Hognob voiced by director Nick Park himself.
Still, life is good in the valley of what we are told in the prologue is near Manchester in Britain. That is, until Bronze-age interlopers come in with machines and elephant to push out the cavemen to the badlands. Lord Nooth voiced by Tom Hiddleston (Thor) in a very French accent arrives and mining begins immediately. The other Bonze-agers have a variety of European accents and a banner of blue and yellow. This nod to Brexit will be lost on the kids but will generate smirks and guffaws from adults and the analogy is tiny little Britain against big old Europe.
Only Dug looks to challenge Lord Nooth but in the attempt gets knocked out and is transported to the the Bronze-age fortress. It is here and undercover that he discovers that the people here play soccer just like in the drawings in the long forgotten Stone-age caves. Unfortunately Dug is captured and a desperate last measure, he challenges the arrogant Nooth to a soccer game between the tribes. The stakes are if Dug wins, they reclaim the valley they lost and of Nooth wins, the Cavemen will work the mines.
Early Man delivers visual humour, puns and slapstick mixed in with politics and sport. Dug finds an ally in Goona (Maise Williams) who longs to play soccer but Bronze-age team doesn't allow girls. She switches sides and teaches the Stone-age team. Meanwhile the scheming Lord Nooth plans how to undermine Dug even before the game. There is some hilarious scenes with a message bird voiced by Rob Byndon that steal the moment and a play by and play and colour commentary of the final soccer game that are full of puns.
At a breezy 89 minutes, Early Man should keep the attention of the young and not be too long for the old. It is the perfect counterpoint to the movies out there that are just too mature for young families. It is sweet and nostalgic and fun.