Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Review: Early Man

Early Man
Cert: PG / 87 mins / Dir. Nick Park / Trailer

Well, I’m happy to stand corrected, once again. This Saturday schedule-filler was a last-minute addition to round a day’s viewing out to ridiculous levels, and one I’d previously avoided, its trailer having put me off with character-models I couldn’t warm to and a showcasing of the film’s cheesiest comedic moments, stripped of context. But as pretty much everyone else has already noticed, Early Man is far, far better than its promo-material. It also wasn’t lost on me that although I watched this in the company of four other people, Aardman’s animation was in its fifth week of release - so the same numbers I’d shared a room with for Gringo on its opening day. But I digress...

Nick Park brings the fun once again in a tale of stone-age cavemen who find they’ve got to battle invading bronze-age pioneers by challenging them to a game of football. At its heart, this is the archetypal British underdog movie, with all the wit and charm we’ve come to expect from the Bristol’s finest. I also love that the word ‘crap’ has found its way into a PG movie, with precisely the correct colloquial usage and intonation. We need more of this.

A fantastic voice-cast (led by Maisie Williams, Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston) commit to their roles unreservedly, indicating the high esteem in which Aardman is held. There are near-constant smiles, chuckles and laughs, both scripted and visual, and the density of writing should reward re-watching for some time to come.

That said, I didn’t quite find the wry silliness of The Pirates! here, nor the timeless, silent-movie magic of Shaun The Sheep. Although given that this might be the first time I’ve tolerated extended exposure to football since I was about twelve, it’s entirely probable that the sporting-core of the movie was never going to fully connect. Best case example: I got the arch subtext about the corporate nature of European soccer, I’m just not bothered about that either way.

But above all else, it’s just awe-inspiring that feature length stop-animation still exists and is created with such painstaking passion and precision. The scale of the production here (both organisationally and physically) is nothing short of astounding.

Early Man may not be their best work, but Aardman’s Sunday-players are still in a league of their own.

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The other Aardman animations, including their TV work.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Well, I imagine you've probably seen it by now as everyone was on-board except me.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
This will be a good rainy-day DVD.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
In all fairness, it's not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: This film features the voice of Mariam Margolyes, who was in the Black Adder episode 'The Queen of Spain's Beard' along with Brian 'Boss Nass' Blessed.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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