Advertisement
  1. Movies

'Early Man' is a throwback in both story and Aardman Studios claymation style

Aardman Animations star Nick Park, the brilliant mind behind the adventures of "Wallace & Gromit," tries to outdo the Flintstones in his latest comedy "Early Man." (Lionsgate) 1223444
Published Feb. 12, 2018

Nick Park's stop-motion clay animation made famous with Wallace & Gromit seems prehistoric in a digital age. That makes it perfectly suited for Early Man, a throwback in both story and Aardman Studios style.

Early Man is Park's first feature since winning an Oscar for 2005's The Curse of the Were-Rabbit yet sculpted in a hands-on fashion that would have fit the very next year. Park since succumbed to digital animation's efficiency, used mainly in the background. Early Man proudly retains Park's simple/not simple Plasticine pleasures.

Early Man also keeps its punny British sense of humor in sight gags and jokes occasionally lost in transatlantic translation. This is a comedy about soccer but for 90 minutes doesn't call it that. Park concocts an irreverently sacred origin of football, the World Cup type, stretching back to when dinosaurs (briefly) roamed the Earth.

A meteor strike ends that, leaving a crater and a round fragment so hot that nobody can touch it, so they curiously kick it around. A Stonehenge target is built, a cave wall artist captures the action. Soccer, I mean football, is born.

Jump ahead to the last remnants of the Stone Age, a kindly tribe of rabbit hunters living in that crater, now a lush valley surrounded by wastelands. Our hero is Dug, eagerly voiced by Eddie Redmayne. Dug is a forward thinker, urging the Chief (Timothy Spall) to hunt mammoths instead.

Their idyll is interrupted by Bronze Age intruders led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston with a silly French accent), mining the valley for its minerals. Dug is swept up and taken to Nooth's kingdom, immediately thrust into a packed stadium and a "sacred game" he doesn't understand then spiritually does. He challenges Nooth's Real Bronzio team to a match, winner take all the valley.

Early Man settles into underdog comedy mode with Dug and his trusty boar Hognob (Park) molding a team from unibrowed misfits dubbed the Brutes. An outsider named Goona (Maisie Williams) joins, a great player Nooth wouldn't allow on the team since she's a girl. It's fairly easy to guess where this is heading — well, the giant duck is a bit surprising — and mildly fun getting there.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" stars Tom Hanks. LACEY TERRELL  |  TriStar Pictures/Sony Pictures
    ‘21 Bridges’ and 'The Irishman’ also open locally, plus a film in the park and the anniversary screening of ‘Galaxy Quest.’
  2. Director Dan Myrick, left, and Kristian Krempel are pictured on Seventh Avenue in Tampa's Ybor City.
    The series features six 15-minute fictional horror stories based on Ybor history.
  3. Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in "Charlie's Angels." MERIE WEISMILLER WALLACE  |  Columbia Pictures
    Screenings of ‘Turning Point’ and ‘Lionel Richie at Glastonbury’ are also in store for the week.
  4. FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo characters from Disney and Fox movies are displayed behind Cathleen Taff, president of distribution, franchise management, business and audience insight for Walt Disney Studios during the Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures presentation at CinemaCon 2019, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. On Tuesday, Nov. 12, Disney Plus launches its streaming service. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) CHRIS PIZZELLO  |  Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
    The Walt Disney Company’s foray into streaming services is off with a few hitches
  5. The Blair Witch Project director Dan Myrick, left, and his production company partner Kristian Krempel on Seventh Avenue in Ybor City.
[OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
    The production company estimates it will spend over $1 million locally
  6. Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Terminator: Dark Fate." KERRY BROWN  |  Paramount Pictures
    ‘Motherless Brooklyn’ and ‘Arctic Dogs’ open, too, plus screenings of ‘Jane’ with a score by the Florida Orchestra and ‘Parasite.’
  7. Former WWE wrestler turned actor John Hennigan performs stunts in the movie "Speed of Time" being made in Clearwater. Christian Cashmir
    It stars former WWE wrestler-turned-actor John Hennigan.
  8. Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater and the Coast Guard Cutter "Tornado" rescue Nick Schuyler from an overturned vessel in 2009. Coast Guard photo/Fireman Adam Campbell (2009)
    “Not Without Hope” is based on the true story of the boat accident that took the lives of three football players and left a fourth stranded at sea.
  9. Mike Sandlin, owner of Grindhouse Video in Tampa, poses for a photo at his store. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Grindhouse Video, a temple of horror flicks, B movies and cult films, proves the video store isn’t dead yet.
  10. "The Current War" stars Benedict Cumberbatch. DEAN ROGERS  |  101 Studios
    ‘Countdown,’ ‘One Piece: Stampede,’ ‘Dolemite Is My Name’ and ‘The Great Alaskan Race’ also open, plus three horror screenings.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement