By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Aardman Animations, the studio behind Chicken Run, Wallace and Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep, have a new film in theaters that is entertaining and highly enjoyable, but not quite as brilliant as their previous offerings.  With loads of mostly hilarious humor (for both children and adults), and a positive message, Early Man may not be worthy of a Best Animated Feature Oscar, but definitely makes for an entertaining family time at the cinema.  The movie boasts a wonderful cast with some great voice chops to bring these delightful characters to life.  This time Aardman takes on the Stone and Bronze Ages of human history and the results are quite funny.

As the Stone Age comes to a close and the Bronze Age begins, a village of cavemen have enjoyed the comforts and resources of the home for many years, but their way of life is about to face an alarming threat.  A Bronze Age army, led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) invades the village and steals the land from its rightful owners.  Forced to flee their home, Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) and his people try to figure out a strategy to win their home back.  With the help of a football fan named Goona (Maisley Williams), the caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) decides to challenge Lord Nooth’s team to a match and agrees to a very risky wager with Lord Nooth.   Should the cavemen win, they would get their home returned to them; however, should they lose, they would be forced into a life of perpetual servitude to Lord Nooth.

Written and directed by Nick Park, who co-wrote with Mark Burton and John Higginston, Early Man offers audiences moderately entertaining and mostly benign family fun.  It is a typical story of “David versus Goliath” or underdogs battling adversity and believing in themselves no matter what.  While it is a wonderful and positive message for children, adults have seen this all before.  To the film’s credit, the humor delivers plenty of laughs which should have both adults and children in stitches.  I found myself chuckling often, though not all of the jokes land well.

The voice cast assembled for this film is mostly made up of a who’s who among British actors.  In addition to Hiddleston, Spall, Williams, and Redmayne (whom I mentioned above), the movie also features voice performances by Richard Ayoade, Mark Williams, Miriam Margolyes, Rob Brydon, and Nick Park, the director himself.  All of whom deliver fantastic work.

There really isn’t a whole lot more to say about this movie.  It is a good offering by Aardman Studios, but not necessarily a very memorable one.  I am sure that the children will probably enjoy this movie a tad more than their grownup escorts, but I can honestly say that adults should be mostly pleased and not bored with it either.  This movie opens in the U.S. opposite Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, and if parents have some qualms taking young children to a violent superhero action movie, this film will suffice just fine.


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