Plot: Dug is a young caveman, part of a tribe of rabbit hunters and while he is mostly happy with his life, he can’t help but think that perhaps his little tribe can strive for higher goals than rabbits. Although he makes the case to his fellow tribe mates that hunting bigger game could improve their lives, he is laughed off, as the tribe elder is set in the traditions of the group. So Dug and his best friend, a boar named Hognob, keep trying to persuade others, despite the fact that the tribe struggles to capture rabbits, let alone the mammoths Dug wants to hunt. All of those concerns are cast aside when a more advanced tribe storms in with superior weapons and strategies, banishing Dug and his friends from the land they call home. But of course, Dug stumbles upon a potential solution when he discovers that his tribe has a past steeped in soccer, so he challenges the rival tribe to a high stakes game.
Entertainment Value: I love Aardman’s animation style and sense of humor, so I knew I would love Early Man, but this wacky caveman comedy surpassed even those high expectations. The narrative treads on familiar ground, as this underdog sports premise has been done to death, but Early Man is so inventive and just plain weird, even this well worn concept feels fresh. The big game is a central plot point and is given a good amount of time, but the focus is on the characters, so don’t think this is a sports movie, as that isn’t the case. A little knowledge about football/soccer helps some of the humor land, but isn’t required. Aardman has been able to master the task of making movies that appeal to both children and adults, a trend that continues here, as Early Man is bound to entertain audiences of all ages. The dialogue is filled with in-jokes that older viewers will love, while the sight gags and pratfalls that children love are so well executed, even grown ups will laugh. To be honest, this is just one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in a while, animated or otherwise. I had an absolute blast with Early Man and as such, it earns a high, high recommendation.
I always love to revisit Aardman movies often, as the visual design elements are so much fun and packed with a wealth of little details. So whenever I go back and watch the studio’s films again, I usually pick up on small jokes or background touches that I missed before, which is a lot of fun. This trend continues in Early Man, which has the signature Aardman visual presence and is an animation masterwork, a beautiful movie that has so much detail and depth tucked in. The characters are quirky and humorous just to look at, let alone when the actual comedy kicks in, while the world is soaked in elements that make it feel real and lived in. I would recommend this one for the visual design alone, it is that much of an achievement in animation. The voice cast has a lot of well known talent, including Tom Hiddleston as hapless villain Lord Nooth, one of the film’s most outlandish characters. The ensemble also includes Maisie Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall, and Richard Ayoade.