Review: Early Man6 April 2018
Nick Park’s Early Man is a perfectly imperfect squishy little world where the visible fingerprints of its creators remind viewers of its true craftsmanship. Aardman Animation’s latest stop motion follows the life of a primitive Stone Age tribe as they fight to defend their land through a soccer match against the Bronze Age invaders. It is a truly charming watch thanks to delightful characters and endless amounts of hilarious physical comedy. Never underestimate the classic laugh out loud purity of a warthog that wants to be a soccer legend or a ginormous duck that frequently interrupts doomed training sessions.
The hero of the story, Dug, brought to life by the voice of Eddie Redmayne, is a spritely centre for the film’s witty dialogue written by Mark Burton (Chicken Run) and James Higginson (Shaun the Sheep Movie). Dug and his warthog companion, Hognob, are a pair comparable to the famous Wallace and Gromit themselves, a clever throwback to Ardman’s beginnings. Game of Throne’s Maisie Williams voices the soccer-crazed Goona, a strong female lead who advocates the right for women to play on the sacred field; an act that ties in with the films theme of teamwork and courage. Viewers will enjoy the wordplay and many puns as well as the deranged pigeon that carries messages by impersonating its subjects.
I have never been a sports fan of any sort, yet this exceptionally silly portrayal of how soccer was first invented managed to reel me in completely. The film starts off in prehistoric England, specifically Manchester, giving way to many jokes about the surrounding area such as how Dug refers to the team as ‘Early Man United’. The “sacred game” is created when an asteroid breaks off into a little, round ball that the remaining men kick around, inadvertently creating the game of soccer. “A few Ages later” and the game has been made famous by Lord Nooth of the Bronze Age. When Lord Nooth attempts to destroy Dug’s home and mine for bronze, a bet is struck up between the two tribes to win over the land through a game of soccer. What follows is a hysterical yet heart-warming scramble towards freedom with many, many clever gags along the way. As such, I shall leave you with just that:
Lord Nooth: “Take him away and kill him, and do it slowly.”
[Guards start walking away with Dug really slowly]
Lord Nooth: “No! I meant take him away at normal speed and kill him slowly!”