Any film from beloved stop-motion animation studio, Aardman, will be met with great anticipation. Their films feel so intrinsically part of British culture, and after previous feature-length efforts such as ‘Chicken Run’, ‘The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, and ‘Shaun the Sheep Movie’ delighted audiences almost as much as their fabled ‘Wallace & Gromit’ shorts did, the hope was that their latest offering, ‘Early Man’, would do the same.
Boasting an impressive British voice cast, including Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall, to name but a few, the thumbprints of Aardman are all over this film…in more ways than one! It is impossible not to be charmed by this film, even when the story is perhaps a little sub-par compared to some of their previous offerings. Hapless hero Dug (Redmayne) and his quest to save his valley from the tyrannous Lord Nooth (Hiddleston) by defeating his all-star team in a football match, is a classic underdog story and one which is in the safest of hands with Aardman and director Nick Park.
It follows many of the same beats as other sporting underdog stories, but coupling this tried-and-tested movie blueprint with the quintessential laughs and lovingly crafted characters and sets that Aardman are known for, offers something a little different to the similar sporting movies that have come before.
Its football focus opens up a number of opportunities for great visual gags, and wry humour towards British sports fans in particular. It is an odd combination, and one which perhaps doesn’t always work, but there is a certain charm to it, and the characters make it an easy film to like. Towards the end, it starts to drag a little, and when the conclusion seems pretty inevitable in a film such as this, it does make parts of it feel a little tiresome.
However, the laughs come thick and fast, and every time your attention wanes there’ll be a top-notch visual gag or a wonderfully British double-entendre to bring you right back into it. As with all Aardman films, it is the sort of film that demands a second viewing because there are just so many little background touches and jokes that will be easily missed the first time around.
On the whole, ‘Early Man’ is far from Aardman’s best, but is not without merit and its another “fun for all the family” film to add to their impressive canon. It also features the best (and perhaps only) visual gag involving a giant duck that you will see all year. Charming as always, and full of laughs, ‘Early Man’ just about wins this match.
SARAH’S RATING: 7.5/10
Directed by: Nick Park
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall.