Lovers of the famous Wallace and Gromit claymation films will be rubbing their hands together in glee now that Aardman Studios is releasing a new Nick Park movie, Early Man.
Well-timed to take advantage of the school holiday crowd, it’s an ideal film for people of all ages, with entertaining visuals and lots of action for the ankle-biters, and plenty of ‘dad jokes’ for those of a more mature vintage.
It’s not always easy to find a film that would be a good family outing without questionable content for the under-15s or boring the over-15s, so Early Man will fit this niche.
The story follows a tribe of cavemen who are displaced from their valley by the more sophisticated invaders from the new Bronze Age. While the cavemen initially accept defeat and retreat to the wastelands, one plucky young caveman, Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne), decides to try to win their valley back by challenging the champion football players of the new empire, wittily named Real Bronzio, to a high-stakes match against cavemen who have never played the game.
But there are historic drawings on the cave walls showing that their ancestors did once play football, so that’s good enough for Dug. If they win the match, they get their valley back, but if they lose, they are committed to work in the mines of the invaders.
Dug’s faithful retainer is a pig named Hognob (voiced by creator and director Nick Park), and the two of them team up with Bronze Age girl Goona (Maisie Williams).
Goona sneaks onto the famous football field at night to practise her own football skills, which of course are spectacular. However, she never gets a game because (shock horror!) she is a girl, so when Dug offers her the chance to coach and play with the Cavemen team, she jumps at it.
The humour in this film is very sweet, and the one-liners come thick and fast, eliciting many chuckles from the audience. After some setbacks, justice does triumph and the world is set to rights, largely because of the guts and determination shown by Dug and his Neanderthals, showing that a supposedly more advanced culture doesn’t always get their way.
For adults, what really makes the film work is the star-studded cast of actors voicing the characters, including Timothy Spall as Chief Bobnar, Miriam Margolyes as Queen Oofeefa, Tom Hiddleston as the evil Lord Nooth, and Rob Brydon as Message Bird and a hilarious double act playing two footy commentators.
While initially the cave people are represented as simple and slightly stupid, as the film progresses their strength and inner goodness emerges, and these qualities help them to conquer their dire situation, proving that good values can outwit a misuse of power.
While not up to the standard of the brilliant Wallace and Gromit films, Early Man is an entertaining film that should keep viewers of all ages amused.
Highlight: Brilliant British voice actors make the film lots of fun
Red flag: Occasional mild violence and adult humour