From the grainy dots and scratches on the opening shots to the Ray Harryhausen dinosaurs ripe for a Chewits commercial (those who make it all the way to the end credits will learn they’re actually called Ray and Harry!), the usual Aardman charm is in full effect.
Early Man wastes no time in getting to its core vision, as a meteor strike inadvertently causes the birth of football. It’s furs for goalposts in a film that revels in its Flintstones vibe, even as the Bronze Age comes rudely knocking to displace our Stone Age heroes from their idyllic valley home.
Eddie Redmayne is Dug, the fearless, floppy-haired hunter who stands up to these more advanced adversaries. He teams up with Maisie Williams’s Goona to take on Real Bronzio and win back his land – or spend the rest of his life down a mine with the other villagers.
As you might expect, Early Man is packed full of football puns, so an appreciation of the beautiful game will certainly help. However, the pun-tastic script doesn’t stop there, and eagle-eyed viewers will spot plenty of other gags lurking in the background (food stall Jurassic Pork, anyone?).
Its oddest decision is to saddle a couple of its leads with, as that Frenchman on the castle wall in Monty Python and the Holy Grail would no doubt say, outrageous accents. Williams is still recognisable but if you’re wondering where Tom Hiddleston is having seen his name on the posters, that’s him playing the baddie Lord Nooth.
Like a minnow taking on the big boys in the later rounds of the FA Cup, Early Man has plenty of heart. Enough of the jokes also hit the back of the net. Yet it lacks the tension of Aardman’s Chicken Run, or the outright hilarity of a Wallace and Gromit adventure. Comedy bronze, then.
Release: 26 January 2018
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: U