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Early Man


Stars: Voices: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Timothy Spall, Maisie Williams, Rob Brydon, Miriam Margolyes, Richard Ayoade, Johnny Vegas, Mark Williams

Director: Nick Park

It's the Neo-Pleistocene (geddit?) Era in this feature-length Aardman animation, and a small pocket of Stone Age men and women still lives a back-to-nature life. Each day the Chief (Spall) tells his sparse group of followers that we 'give thanks for our valley and all the creatures we share it with. Right, let's go kill something!'

Alas, almost immediately the rabbit-hunting troglodytes are run out of their Happy Valley by armoured mammoths manned by Bronze Age warriors led by Lord Nooth (Hiddleston). The film's villain, this lord is definitely bad nooth for our hirsute hunters, who are driven into barren, volcanic territory.

One caveman, Dug (Redmayne), whose best friend is a warthog (Park himself), accidentally stows away with the raiders, and finds himself in the Bronze city, where a football match is about to take place, a game Dug recognises from paintings on a wall in the valley.

He conceives a plan to put his Stone Age pals against the crack Real Bronzio team for a place in Happy Valley.

There are the usual Aardman in-jokes - a stall sells Jurassic Pork - although the setting gives Park less scope than usual. The cavemen characters, though, are not that interesting, and few emerge as individuals (where are Wallace and Gromit, or, for that matter, Shaun the Sheep, when you need them?). Here, a talking carrier pigeon's burblings are particularly tiresome.

And, though the film does pick up in its final arena-bound third, with the two commentators voiced in slyly amusing fashion by Brydon, the material at hand still seems slightly stretched at this length. More conventional than previous Aaadman efforts, the modest offering will nonetheless keep smaller children well entertained.

David Quinlan

UK 2018. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Technicolor.
89 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: U.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 22 Jan 2018