Early Man

In Nick Park’s vision of the dawn of humanity, Manchester was already united.

One of the joys of Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park’s best work has always been the utter Britishness of it, so it’s not surprising that what seems like it should be Park’s least culturally-specific film — his new prehistoric romp Early Man — turns out to be more British than a Beefeater washing down a scone with a pint of bitter before settling in to watch Eastenders. Dug (Eddie Redmayne) is a caveman who unwittingly leads his Stone Age tribe into a football match against a more advanced Bronze Age tribe, led by the extremely French Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). Park pays homage to his own stop-motion ancestors, particularly Willis O’Brien’s fighting dinosaurs in the 1925 The Lost World, in a prologue presented in a grainy style that the film unfortunately drops. Despite the extensive digital work in the environments, Early Man’s character animation still retains Park’s signature handmade feel; note how the fur of Dug’s tribe’s costumes are disturbed by an animator’s fingers between every shot, a stop-motion artifact dating back to at least the 1933 King Kong. Both the story and the film itself are a trifle, but still, it’s a movie set in prehistoric times which is ultimately about a football rivalry between England and France. Really, it doesn’t get more British than that.

Rated PG.
Opens Friday.

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