Dug (Eddie Redmayne), and his side-boar HogNob, enter an adventure to save their stone-age tribe and home from the incoming evil Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston)and his bronze age development. To keep his tribe safe, Dug enters a contest in Lord Nooths favourite sport, football.
Aardman is one of the great modern wonders of British cinema, so when they release a new feature-film, whether you are a child or not, you can’t help but be excited. However, where Wallace and Gromit innovated, and Pirates took stop-motion and British humour to an even larger audience, Early Man is left in the stone-ages, ironically where the film is based.
The first thing that strikes you about Early Man is the, phenomenal as ever, stop-motion animation. Where every rock moves and every character has their own ticks, it really cannot be stated how incredible a film this is too watch. It may not hit the background or set heights of ‘Curse of the Ware Rabbit’, but you still can recognise the animation as characteristically Aardman. However, from here on in, ‘Early Man’ tends to become more troughs than peaks.
We begin early man with an introduction to Dug (Redmayne) and his happy and settled stone-age tribe. We learn about their hunting, the origin of their environment, and get some good laughs. But this is a key point of contention in the film for me, Aardmans humour is usually A* and so iconic of Britain you remember them years after they appeared in the film. This is where ‘Early Man’ stumbles, the humour and the general audience that the film uses and plays against just seems very young. The demographic seems the lowest of any Aardman film and left me more under-whelmed at points than I would have hoped.
From here, we move on to even more gorgeously animated sets for Lord Nooths (Hiddleston) bronze-age development, which does up the humour somewhat, but overall we continue to feel that this is a film more for 8 years old than the wide demographic that Aardman films can usually entertain. Then football is introduced, and everything sags. It isn’t particularly exciting to watch (Aardman kind of tried it before with Flushed Away) , and just doesn’t grab you as something you’d want to watch a whole story revolve around. Of course, Dug and his tribes go through the motions to reach the climax, but all of it plays too simple and you can’t help but feel that the script was just slightly under-cooked. That isn’t to say the film isn’t great simple entertainment with a good laugh here and there, but from Aardman this didn’t seem the usual standard we expected.
Whilst the humour does spike here and then, the animation sparkles like you always expect from Aardman, and the entertainment value is good, Early Man is too often made to play to much younger audiences.