Sometimes, you just gotta kick it old school.
With all of the advances in technology and filmmaking over the last fifteen years alone, the charm of some of the old techniques tend to get lost in the shuffle. Fortunately, Aardman Studios have committed themselves to keeping some of that around with their Claymation style of animation with films like “Chicken Run” and the highly successful “Wallace and Gromit” franchise. Now, with Nick Park flying solo for the first time, they bring an all-new story to the screen with “Early Man”.
This is the story of Dug (Eddie Redmayne), a Stone Age young man who lives in his valley peacefully along with his family, friends, and fellow tribesmen. Their existence is disrupted when a group of Bronze Age-rs led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) decides to take over their land to mine more metal for their kingdom, driving Dug and his people to a wasteland to survive. Dug courageously stands up to Nooth and challenges his people to a contest that could either get them back their land or banish them forever.
The voice cast here alone is enough to bring masses to the theater, with the already mentioned talent as well as Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Rob Brydon, and Gina Yashere. However, that is not the only reason to see this film. There is a rich story here about family, unity, and teamwork that will resonate with the young ones as well as a great return to the ninety-minute kids film (also slowly going the way of the dinosaur… yep, I did THAT pun). I also respected the fact that the filmmakers did not try to put a bunch of humor in this to keep the adults entertained with references that would go over the kids head; this script is simply strong enough to keep everyone engaged and laughing all the way through.
If I have one criticism, it would be that there are a couple of plot points that I did not feel were fleshed out well enough for me, especially in the third act. It wasn’t enough for me to drop its enjoyment level any, but if I am drilling that far down to find something to criticize, that is a GOOD thing.
“Early Man” may be a family film, but that does not mean that people without families to bring will feel odd going to see it in a theater. There is enough here to bring enjoyment to each and every person from eight to eighty that reminds us that it’s OK for our films to not try to tell us how bad the world is or flood us with political messages every once in a while because… sometimes, you gotta kick it old school.