sun 09/08/2020

Early Man review - delight for football fans and kids alike | reviews, news & interviews

Early Man review - delight for football fans and kids alike

Early Man review - delight for football fans and kids alike

Nick Park scores a magnificent goal with his stop-frame, football-crazy cavemen

One boy and his dog - Eddie Redmayne voices lead Cave Man, Dug, right

Nick Park’s utterly charming new animation channels the spirits of so many cinema and comedy ghosts that its originality can be overlooked but it shouldn’t be. This is a fresh narrative in an era where films aimed at young audiences are dominated by sequels, prequels, remakes, comic book and TV adaptations, and it is all the better for it. The in-jokes and references come thick and fast and it’s fun spotting them. From the outset there’s a homage to Douglas Adams and the Pythons; we may be in the primordial soup but captions tell us we’re near Manchester, around lunchtime. Meanwhile two dinosaurs battle it out to the death  the end credits will identify them as Ray and Harry, homages to stop frame maestro Ray Harryhausen. 

Moving rapidly on through meteors and apocalyptic fires, the noble game of football is invented by some Neanderthals who kick around a meteorite and record it in cave paintings. Their Stone Age descendants forget the skill but are pretty good at hunting rabbits and live happily in the arcadian idyll of their own verdant valley (their camp, pictured below) until some Bronze Age folk with clanking machines (shades of Heath Robinson and Studio Ghibli) come along. They are determined to take over the valley and mine it for more bronze. Can a game of footie save our loveable Early Men from being cast out into the gloom of the Badlands?Early ManStuffed with brilliant sight gags and a witty script by Mark Burton and James Higginson, Park’s ingenious hand-crafted animation shines throughout. The Bronze Agers who sneer at the unsophisticated Stone Agers parallel the CGI aficionados who look down on old-skool stop-frame technique. The traditional Aardman-style plasticine pinched thick brows and googly eyes work brilliantly on the characters evoked here.

There’s some great voice work too – Tom Hiddleston goes all Peter Sellers’ Clouseau as imperious Lord Nooth – while Eddie Redmayne is endearing as the lead Cave Man, Dug. Park himself voices the grunts and squeaks of Hognob, the Grommit-like boar who is desperate to be of service to his friend Dug. Rob Brydon plays a giant messenger bird relaying memorised edicts between Queen Oofeefa (Miriam Margolyes) and Lord Nooth. There’s a wealth of great characters, including a gargantuan mallard with scary teeth and Goona, a feisty football player (Maisie Williams), who isn't allowed to play for Real Bronzio because she's a girlie. Instead she jumps in to train up the "plucky band of knuckle grazers" with nifty footwork and team tactics.

Where Dreamworks and even Pixar occasionally lob in sleazy jokes aimed at adults and use retro pop to please parents, Nick Park and his collaborators play it straight. If some of the references and gags go over a child’s head, none of them are embarrassing to explain. Perfectly timed for the 2018 World Cup, Early Man is a classic David-and-Goliath tale of sporting underdogs. It should enchant even the most football-hating audiences and delight soccer fans and kids alike.


Overleaf: watch the trailer for Early Man

Stuffed with brilliant sight gags and a witty script, Nick Parks’ ingenious hand-crafted animation shines throughout


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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