If only the task of creating a feature length movie in stop motion animation didn’t take as long as it did, we’d have many more wonderful examples. Here, Aardman return with Early Man.
Dug, Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, The Danish Girl), is a prehistoric, or pre-plasticine, man living a nice, rabbit-hunting existence within the impact crater from a meteorite. The leftovers of said meteorite had previously been used by Dug’s ancestors as a football.
Dug is joined in this crater by Chief Bobnar, Timothy Spall (The Party, Denial), Treebor, Richard Ayoade (Paddington 2, The Boxtrolls), Barry, Mark Williams (Father Brown (TV), Harry Potter), Dino, Kayvan Novak (Prevenge, Paddington), Asbo, Johnny Vegas (Benidorm (TV), Still Open All Hours (TV) and others.
Dug accidentally ends up within the walls of this new, bronze-age city and stumbles across football, which they play regularly and Nooth’s team are unbeaten at.
To win back his crater he challenges Nooth’s team of stars to a game of football. If he wins, he gets back his crater, if he loses, they must all work down the mines.
This marks the first feature length directorial debut for Nick Park as he previously co-directed the other movies Chicken Run and The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit. It’s written by Mark Burton (The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, Madagascar) and James Higginson.
As you’d expect from an Aardman production, it looks fantastic. There are wonderful touches of detail here and there, however, where previous movies, and the shorts, have required you to notice goings on in the background, subtle touches, that has mostly been abandoned for Early Man.
Most of the jokes are front and centre and some, sadly, are very obvious. One could go for the excuse that this is a movie aimed at children, however, the screen I was in was full of children and there was very little laughter.
The story is a little thin on the ground and a lot of the characters never move beyond the background.
Maisie Williams (Game Of Thrones (TV), iBoy) stars as Goona, a woman who loves football but isn’t allowed to play because she’s a woman and Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (TV)) pops up as Queen Oofeefa.
Perhaps one of the best performances comes from comedian Rob Brydon (Gavin And Stacey (TV)) who stars as a Message Bird, a bird that mimics its users and delivers the message as a mini-performance, and also as football commentators Brian and Bryan.
It’s not that Early Man is a bad film, it isn’t, it’s just not as good as the other Aardman productions such as any of the Wallace And Gromit outings or Chicken Run. Perhaps they’ve set the bar too high for themselves?