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