On Friday, Aardman and StudioCanal release their second feature-length collaboration with “Early Man,” an underdog sports film set in prehistory. Directed by Nick Park, who has directed everything from “Wallace & Gromit” as well as Aardman’s first feature film “Chicken Run;” this film hosts a near-literal menagerie of characters portrayed by some real heavy-weights, including Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston.
Before getting to the film itself, I wanted to touch upon the excellent screening party put on by the Alamo Drafthouse and Fons PR. I took my (nearly) five-year-old son and on top of watching some amazing performances by students from Austin’s School of Rock, he also got to see how stop-motion films can be made using Legos, and painted his own pet rock. Needless to say, he was thrilled.
The film’s protagonist, Dug (Redmayne), is a caveman from the Stone Age whose homeland is invaded and taken over by Lord Nooth (Hiddleston), herald of the Bronze Age. In an attempt to win back his tribe’s land, Dug challenges Nooth’s reigning champions of “the sacred game:” Football (or “soccer,” to us Americans). Believing the game to be in his tribe’s blood — even though it’s foreign to them — Dug enlists the help of Goona (Williams), a star player denied the chance to play because “she’s a girl.”
Though the setting of the film is the turn of the Bronze Age, and there are plenty of gags and jokes that play off it, the core of the film is football. This is a fun, underdog sports flick that is good for all ages, but it doesn’t stray too far from that formula — nor does it have to. Football fans will enjoy the humor immensely. Not being sports-savvy myself, I didn’t get many of the jokes that others in the audience did, but if their reaction and the frequency with which I was not in on it are any indication, then football fans will LOVE this movie. Don’t let that put you off if you’re not familiar with the sport, or you’re worried your children won’t understand. When teaching Dug’s tribe how to play, Goona effectively educates the audience as well.
I think it’s also worth noting how well the animators and actors made the characters come to life. I mentioned three of the top-billed actors, but even knowing beforehand who they were voicing I never had a moment of hearing the actor instead of the character. Moreover, I was in awe over the tight animations of not just the characters interacting in a sport, but the realistic movements and actions of the inanimate objects as well: balls, coins, and stadium chairs.
I recommend “Early Man” heartily to families, especially those who love football. Parents should feel comfortable taking even young children into this PG film. Adults who still have “Little Giants” and “The Mighty Ducks” as guilty-pleasure DVDs should take note too!
“Early Man” hits theatres on Friday, February 16! To find ticket information visit: https://www.earlymanmovie.com/