A national institution is Nick Park and the evolution of Aardman Studios is one of the few national film success stories in recent decades of British film. His latest incarnation rolls back the centuries in a world vying the same sensical logic as flateathers, as a tribe of pre-historic cave men living in a safe haven cul-de-sac of rare greenery, live peacefully surrounded by a world of scorched earth and death. Young tribesman Dug, dreams of bigger things, literally, wishing to upgrade from hunting rabbits to mammoths. But when a giant force does show up, they are immediately out of their depth, as the Bronze age comes sweeping into their private paradise under the form of Franco tongued captain of industry Lord Nooth, Tom Hiddleston. Ostracised from their home, Dug along with his best friend Hognob (more or less a reincarnated Gromit), sneak beyond the walls of the new world and accidentally intrude into a game of football. When Dug’s identity is revealed mid-match, he challenges Lord Nooth to a match of his tribe versus Nooth’s unbeaten champions, if Dug wins, they get back their home but if they lose, Dug and his family will work in the mines. With the odds against him, Dug must train his tribe of dimwits with the aid of the exceptionally talented female footballer Goona.
There’s always guaranteed laughs and charm with the works of Nick Park and Early Man is no different. With almost thirty years between Creature Comforts, Wallace and Gromit, the aesthetic remains largely the same, even if the world setting of Early Man feels bigger, it ends up feeling small, which is a shame because it hampers a sense of journey for the central characters. Whilst the kids may eat this up, it becomes a bit tiring for the grownups. The gags are near universal and crafty, but they wear thin when you crave more from the plot and story. For the effort that has gone into the claymation, it cannot be said to be the same for the script. It really misses a sense of heart or risk of loss for the characters, almost to a point it doesn’t want to emotionally involve it’s audience. There’s a stellar cast behind the chararcters, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade and an unrecognisable Tom Hiddleston as Lord Nooth but only the voices of Mark Williams and Johnny Vegas are recognisable. As a young kid watching Wallace and Gromit, the simple charm and narrative of their adventures have long remained fondly in my memory, but Early Man might not make the same impression on new young audiences. Fun but forgettable
In cinemas from the 26th January.