Movie Review: ‘Early Man’

Directed by: Nick Park

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, and Maisie Williams

Plot: One of the last cavemen competes in a soccer game against Bronze Age noblemen over his homeland.


Aardman Animation, home of Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, is one of the more prolific animation studios in cinema. It is one of the last that still specializes in one of the more classic animation mediums, stop-motion. Like Pixar and Laika, I think they do their best work when they skirt closer to the “all ages” category of cartoon. Not one that is simply safe for all ages, so to speak, but where on top of a well-conceived story is also a bevy of adult humor minutia that will pass safely over the heads of minors. More on that later. First, the movie:

Early Man features the voice of Eddie Redmayne as Dug, our spunky caveman protagonist. Except he doesn’t live in a cave. His people actually sleep in a big pile under the stars in the crater left by the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. He is a plenty likable leading man type whose bravery is bigger than his size would imply. His ambition to hunt a mammoth instead of his tribe’s usual prey of choice, rabbit, is part of what gets him into a mess in the first place.

Surrounding their little forest-y ecosystem is the Badlands, full of volcanoes, dinosaur bones, and sabretooth ducks. And just beyond that, the Stone Age has ended and the Bronze Age has begun, exemplified by Lord Nooth, voiced by Tom Hiddleston, using an aggravatingly bad (in a good way) French accent.

Nooth has invaded their turf to build a new bronze mine, and after Dug hitches a ride back to Nooth’s kingdom, he makes a bet. They’ll play soccer (football since its a UK movie), winner takes the crater. So, Dug has to return to the Badlands, train his tribe from scratch in the art of soccer, and beat the Adonis-like athletes already in Nooth’s employ. Hijinks ensue.

It is your classic David vs Goliath sports comedy, except in this context “classic” means boring. A lot of people keep describing this as a sports comedy parody (thanks to the weird time frame), but it more or less adheres to every major trope. Pretty damn quickly too! At barely an hour and a half, it only ever stopped for some poorly timed slapstick. Never to develop anything of interest. The only goods gags either revolve around the big plush #1 fingers you get at sporting events (they wring two quality laughs out of that) or the “Flintstone”-like anachronisms (The instant replay is a puppet show!). The best bit of all involves a messenger bird that doesn’t drop off a tiny slips of paper but instead speaks the message as an impression of the sender, voiced by master impressionist, Rob Brydon. 

Needless to say, I didn’t like it, but that is due to the fact that it is not an aforementioned “all ages” movie. This movie is definitely leaning more toward the kiddies, and I bet most of them will realy dig it. But I cannot. For that reason, I almost didn’t even bother reviewing it. I’m not really sure what my role should be here. I have been honest about what I think about the movie, but who cares? It is literally not for me. All I can say is, if you were hoping not to fall asleep when your kids drag you to this, I think you’ll be disappointed. 

Plot: 3/10