If you’re looking forward to a culture-clash comedy which puts the hysterical into pre-historical, then “Early Man” may leave you feeling sick as a parrot.
When Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and his tribe are kicked out of their idyllic valley by the bronze-clad forces of Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston), he decides to challenge the invaders to a contest pitting their stone age skills against the bronze age bullies to decide the fate of the valley once and for all.
As you’d expect from Aardman, the animation is exquisitely adorable and there’s a wonderfully whimsical sense of humour woven through this mid-Pleistocene (or should that be Plasticine?) parable. Nick Park’s solo directorial debut is at its strongest in the little details, the witty asides and throwaway gags which homage the background word building of “The Flintstones” but when it comes to the main story, it’s much less nimble.
Rather than a knockabout prehistoric romp, “Early Man” is a football movie. In place of any trenchant insights into the value and price of progress and moving with the times, instead the film seems content to explore the vaguely xenophobic inferiority complex the English have with regards to ‘their’ national game and the chip on the national shoulder that foreign invaders (read: continental Europeans) are better at the game than the country which gave the sport to the world.
There’s little of the sly allegorical wit of Aardman’s “Wallace & Gromit” work on show here and the voice work, while suitably star-studded, is unremarkable. For football-mad youngsters, there will be enough to keep them occupied for the ninety minutes, but parents and older children will be praying it doesn’t go into extra time as it indulges national wish-fulfilment. Despite its innate likeability, this is a remarkably forgettable film from Aardman. Thanks to a wasteful and wishy-washy plot “Early Man” deserves an early bath.