A Very English Film about Football (and Cavemen)
A plucky cave man named Dug, his sidekick Hognob and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to their simple existence. Lord Nooth plans to take over their land and transform it into a giant mine, forcing Dug and his clan to dig for precious metals. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy -- the Bronze Age.
The hero of Early Man is 'Dug' (played by Eddie Redmayne of Fantastic Beasts), a toothy, bushy-haired cave-boy in a furry loincloth who spends his days hunting rabbits with the rest of his tribe, whhich includes Chief Bobnar (played by Timothy Spall). Dug believes the tribe should do more and wants to hunt woolly mammoths, but when he presents the idea, he’s reminded how useless his tribe are and is told to keep hunting rabbits and forget his dreams.
Pretty soon, however, an army of French clad in bronze armor arrives, and when the tribe is run out of their homeland, Dug hides and follows the bronze bullies to their camp. It's here he unwittingly winds up in the arena and discovers the bronze army's favorite game - football! (That's football in the English sense). As a way to save his tribe, Dug challenges the French scumbags to a match. He's never played footy but that doesn't dampen his spirits - he knows his ancestors invented the game.
The film is hilariously set “near Manchester,” with a background of barren wastelands and dirt pits (quite accurate, really!) and has oodles of English jokes throughout. I'm sure most of the jokes will be lost on an American audience, from the inclusion of the two Brians (football commentators) to the 1966 World Cup references. I thought it was all very funny and delightfully put together - there's something about an Aardman movie that makes me want to put down the popcorn and coke, and pick up a nice buttered scone and a cup o' tea. Makes me feel at home!
Overall, the animation style and characters are very typical of a Nick Park / Aardman film, following in the footsteps of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. Where Early Man falls a little flat is in the pacing - it's not as sharp or as intriguing as any of the previous films. Still, it's not too bad - It's mostly aimed at younger children but there's definitely enough to keep adults engaged for the most part.
The Bottom Line
Not quite fully evolved - but enough for a fun Saturday morning at the Pictures