Let’s talk about Early Man.
Aardman remain one of the most charming film makers out there. While they have made a handful of CGI movies, their stock and trade is with stopmotion and they refuse to move on from it. If we’re honest, they don’t make the most stunning looking stopmotion films, Laika’s are breathtaking to look at, but they have something about them which just make them likable. Maybe it’s because it feels like you can see the fingerprints on them and therefore the hard work which makes it possible.
The latest effort to come from them is Early Man but this is more of a sports movie than a prehistoric movie. It’s a fairly simple tale, an evil lord steals the land of our plucky cavemen heroes and when the young Doug discovers they play a game called football, he challenges them to a match to get their land back.
The typical Aardman humour is there. If you’ve seen Wallace and Gromit you’ll know it’s quite typical British humour. It’s unashamedly silly and willing to make the daftest jokes it can think of, including the introduction of a giant mallard duck as a key plot device, as well as some sneaky smutty humour for the adults. I say sneaky, half of these jokes revolve around a character being naked. Thankfully because of the placement of furniture, we avoid every seeing some claymation genitalia but it does suggest the dirty humour isn’t as well hidden as it usually is. It does get a laugh though, especially a discussion on Doug going into the stadium to ‘get some balls’. That’s the subtle dirty humour I know Aardman for.
But the humour I enjoyed the most was about the football. You can tell that in reality, this entire movie was made just so they can poke fun at the ridiculous state of football. To watch the matches, fans have to make ‘voluntary’ contributions which go up by stupid amounts every time a new game is played. The players of the champions Real Bronzio are all over pampered and highly paid arrogant people who cannot play as a team, a weakness it is up to the cavement to use to have the slightest chance of winning. When the queen shows up for the match at the end of the movie, she ends up with a bronze age vuvuzuela. As a massive football fan, come on Sheffield Wednesday, I really enjoyed these jokes mostly because they come from a place of love. A lot of jokes when they are aimed at football in general life seem to come from a place of nastiness or snobbiness, so it’s nice to see some from an obvious fan of the sport.
While the movie is very funny and very good, the plot is as clichéd as they come. It’s obvious that they came up with the idea of a cavemen football team and of all the jokes before they decided on the story. Because if you’ve seen any sort of sports movie before, you know what it’s all about. A bunch of plucky underdogs train hard to try and beat the arrogant champions, there’s training montages, the obligatory scene before the match where the hero doubts himself and is preparing to quit and while I won’t spoil the ending, you know the ending. I don’t think this ruins the movie, this movie is all abut the characters and jokes and so they can just about get away with it, but it stops the movie from becoming an all-time classic.
Early Man is a movie filled with so much charm that you can’t help but like it. It’s a very likable film which has a tonne of fun characters who you just enjoy seeing on screen. It’s not the most complex movie in the world and it certainly does not have the depth of some of the recent Disney and Pixar efforts we have seen. But this movie is not trying to match those movies for depth. It just wants to be some fun for whoever’s watching it for an hour and a half and it does that job perfectly.