PREHISTORY BOYS

Aard­man leg­end Nick Park is back with an an­cient foot­ball ca­per boast­ing an all-star line-up

Empire (Australasia) - - Preview - WORDS PHIL DE SEM­LYEN

“AN UN­DER­DOG SPORTS movie with a pre­his­toric twist” is Nick Park’s el­e­va­tor pitch for Early Man, his first di­rec­to­rial fea­ture since 2005’s The Curse Of The Were-rab­bit. This be­ing an­other help­ing of Aard­man stop-mo­tion good­ness, it’s a lot more than that. There are nods to an­i­ma­tion god Ray Har­ry­hausen, a sly cri­tique of soc­cer over­lords FIFA, and all the usual silly vis­ual gags and puns. “We have mon­i­tored the num­ber of ball jokes,” reassures Park.

The yarn it­self pits the dim but cheery Dug (voiced by Ed­die Red­mayne) and his porcine side­kick Hog­nob against the war­like denizens of the Bronze Age and an avari­cious aris­to­crat (Tom Hid­dle­ston, com­plete with daffy French ac­cent). A chal­lenge is set: beat them at soc­cer to save their vil­lage. A team of no-hop­ers is as­sem­bled — think ‘Bad News Mam­moths’ or ‘Bend It Like Cave­men’ — from Dug’s tribe to play Real Bronzio. Well, hope­fully. “Surely it’d be hard for a bunch of idi­otic Bri­tish cave­men if they had to play soc­cer,” ex­plains Park of his idea for a Ne­an­derthal sports movie. “The clay side of it is our forte and the cave­men felt earthy and suited our process. Be­cause they’re al­ways hold­ing clubs, it was rounders, base­ball, then it be­came soc­cer.”

Also crammed into the voice booth are Maisie Wil­liams as the foot­ball-mad Goona, and Richard Ayoade, Ti­mothy Spall and Johnny Ve­gas as Dug’s fel­low tribe mem­bers (Park him­self pro­vides the grunts and snuf­fles as Hog­nob). Ex­pect a giddy game of two halves, and more than a few halfwits.

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