a critiQal film review Early Man (2018)

Plot: A plucky cave man named Dug (Redmayne), his sidekick Hognob (Park) and the rest of their tribe face a grave threat to their simple existence. Lord Nooth (Hiddleston) plans to take over their land and transform it into a giant mine, forcing Dug and his clan to dig for precious metals. Not ready to go down without a fight, Dug and Hognob must unite their people in an epic quest to defeat a mighty enemy - the Bronze Age.

507 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 32s)

For some reason, I missed the previews for Early Man back when it hit theaters, but the posters made it look pretty funny. Without knowing really that much about it, I figured I’d give it a shot now that it’s available to own.

But, would this relatively unknown animated flick be worth my time? Or should I have skipped Early Man?

The casting is decent enough for Early Man, and despite some recognizable names, largely unrecognizable. With the likes of Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)) and Tom Hiddleston (Thor: Ragnarok (2017)), it seems like the viewer would have a hard time imagining them as silly cavemen. And yet, for some reason, it’s hard to recognize them in this film. While that’s usually good for animated films where the voice actors are playing against type, the heavy British accents make all of the dialogue hard to understand anyway, so maybe that’s not such a good thing in this case.

If anyone has watched the previews, they already know this film isn’t your typical animated film. Instead, it’s more of the claymation animation seen things like “Wallace & Gromit” (TV) or Chicken Run. While many have enjoyed that clay-like animation, it’s an acquired taste. For the rest of us, frankly, it gets a little boring over the course of an entire film, and Early Man. It’s an animation style that seems geared more towards keeping the attention of very young viewers, while grown up viewers will find it clunky and just plain silly.

And then there’s the plot. Even the plot of the film doesn’t mention the real main gist of Early Man. Instead of trying to survive the onslaught of the Bronze age in a typical fashion, this film instead has the tribe facing off against a collection of Bronze Age players…in a soccer match (or, since this is British, a football match). Really? Wow. Talk about dumbing down your film for the younger viewers. Of course, this leads to a ridiculous training session where the underdogs whip themselves into shape and bring an unexpected threat to the other team. It’s the typical underdog story that made The Mighty Ducks so popular, and unfortunately, it’s even cheesier than those films.

With that silly claymation animation, heavy British accents making it a bit hard to catch a lot of the dialogue, and a silly story centered around a soccer (er…football) game, Early Man, like the previous efforts from the Wallace & Gromit” (TV) team, is aimed squarely at youngsters. While this isn’t always a bad thing, with bad jokes peppered throughout falling without the benefit of a much-needed laugh track (since no one in the audience will be laughing), it all sums up to make Early Man pretty darn bad.

Sure, young kids might enjoy it, but Early Man is one animated film that’s really hard for grown-ups to enjoy on any level. If you have young kids, this may be one for them to watch with, say, a babysitter, but do your best not to get dragged into it too.

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