Oh thank the Lord up on high for Aardman Animations. You’re hearing me right, kids, I’m an Aardman fan. Okay, to be fair, I’m a sucker for stop-motion and claymation, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s from Aardman, or Laika, so long as this brand of animation gets put out there, I’m a happy Peruvian boy. This stuff takes talent, time, and patience and so rarely lets me down. From the numerous Wallace and Gromit shorts, CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (2005) being a classic, SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE being one of my favorite films in 2015, it’s such a great studio for quality animation and fun storytelling
This, however, I’m not too sure about. While I sure had my doubts about SHAUN THE SHEEP, as I thought the trailer was underwhelming, the movie as a whole was unbelievably charming and deceptively clever and cute. But this… I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it’s going to make way for anything all that clever. I mean, it’s literally two periods of time clashing to prove who’s better. On second though, this could lead to some fun commentary about simplicity over complication, and convenience over struggle. But I don’t think that’s the angle they’re going for in this movie. Just fish out of water jokes and the bronze age folks being jerks. It could still be fine as a whole, but we’ll see.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Eddie Redmayne (FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM , THE DANISH GIRL , and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD ), Tom Hiddleston (THOR: RAGNAROK , MIDNIGHT IN PARIS , and the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR ), Maisie Williams (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and upcoming films DEPARTURES  and THE NEW MUTANTS ), and Timothy Spall (DENIAL , and the upcoming THE CORRUPTED ). In support, we have Rob Brydon (TRIP TO SPAIN , and upcoming films HOLMES AND WATSON  and SWIMMING WITH MEN ), Richard Ayoade (PADDINGTON 2  and THE BOXTROLLS ), and Mark Williams (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 2 , and STARDUST ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Nick Park, known for THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (2005) and CHICKEN RUN (2000). Co-writing the screenplay is Mark Burton (SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE) and James Higginson, making his screenwriting debut. Congrats, sir. Co-composing the score is Harry Gregson-Williams (THE MARTIAN , and the upcoming THE MEG ) and Tom Howe (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and the upcoming CHARMING ). Making for an alarming total of four cinematographers, we have Charles Copping (SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE), Dave Alex Riddett (SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE and WERE-RABBIT), Peter Sorg (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), and Paul Smith, making his cinematography debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the editor is Sim Evan-Jones, known for SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE.
Overall, while I’m not expecting the best Aardman film, I’m still expecting charm and likability.
This is my honest opinion of: EARLY MAN
Long ago, a meteor struck the Earth, killing all the dinosaurs, but the cavemen managed to survive and without realizing it, invented the game of football with the meteor that struck. Ages later, the sport has been forgotten by the stone age. As of now, the last tribe of rabbit hunters are just trying to live their lives in peace, despite Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) trying to get the tribe to venture beyond their comfort zone and hunt bigger game. But things get complicated when the more advanced bronze age invades the tribe’s valley and pushes them out. Dug accidentally gets taken to the bronze city, headed by the self indulgent and greedy Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston), who is obsessed with the game of football and making a profit off of it. And after getting caught in the city, Dug challenges Nooth’s best team for ownership of the valley.
Yeah, as expected, I didn’t like it nearly as much as I hoped, especially for an Aardman production.
The consistent problem with the film is that it’s not really that funny. And before anyone says, “It’s British humor,” that’s not an excuse. I’ve seen plenty of British films that made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t breathe anymore. In the case of Aardman, they’ve never really done laugh-out-loud comedy, so much as charming and likable. But even here, that seems to be a struggle. The supposed comedy is a whole lot of unfunny jokes. Like, okay, the caveman tribe hunts rabbits. What did they use to hunt with? Spears. Which are pointy. Yet, when handed a spear, Treebor (Richard Ayoade) comments that the spear is pointy. Um… is this his first time hunting? There’s no indication of it. How does he not know that? Why is it worth commenting? And while there’s no overly obnoxious or annoying characters, there’s also nothing to them. I guess there’s something kind of amusing to see Lord Nooth caress his face with bronze coins in an orgasmic sense, but it’s probably more that it’s Hiddleston voicing the character and I’m picturing him doing this silly stuff. Voiced by anyone else, I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about it.
Arguably the only funny stuff that I laughed at was anything with the rabbit involved. When he gets caught and the tribe is cheering at their catch, the rabbit cheers with them. Or was that when he was on the spit? I don’t remember, but he is so enthusiastic and oblivious to his surroundings and situations, but he’s there to cheer and share in the trouble. Oh, and the messenger bird (voiced by Rob Brydon) was pretty funny too. Normally, I wouldn’t care about a joke that’s an obvious tie-in to modern technology, but that the dim-witted bird copying everything that’s being said got to me. Especially when the bird is sent back to the queen and Nooth has just been calling her “an old hag” or whatever the he said about her.
Beyond that, the cinematography is gorgeous, the animation is wonderful, some of the slapstick really works, and I admit to liking the ending and how it was handled with the opposing team. But while some bits here and there may be enjoyable, there’s just as many bits that don’t. Nothing that makes the film unwatchable, but comes dangerously close to being boring. As is, it’s just not that interesting. I’m glad I saw it, I suppose, but for the first time watching an Aardman production, I felt like this wasn’t an “all ages” kind of movie, but rather heavily directed toward kids. Which is fine, there’s nothing bad for kids in here, and they’ll likely get a kick out of it. The parents, however, may not be as enthused. Recommendation: bring the kids. It’s not the worst watch, but don’t expect anything on the level of Wallace and Gromit, or Shaun the Sheep. Stone vs. Bronze. An almost dull battle for… an hour and a half.
My honest rating for EARLY MAN: 3/5