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Although not the biggest fan of football, that it's from Aardman (responsible for gems like 'Wallace and Gromit', 'Creature Comforts', 'Chicken Run' and 'Shaun the Sheep', have not seen anything bad from them actually), being a family film/animation fan and that it had so many talented actors in the voice cast was enough to convince me to see 'Early Man'.
Seeing it, 'Early Man' is not one of Aardman's best and it doesn't see them at the top of their game. Then again, with a studio as consistently very good to great as Aardman, that is not a standard that can be reached constantly. It is nonetheless a very worthy effort from them and as a family film, and a film in general, 'Early Man' to me was immensely enjoyable. There is a lot of talent on board and the film doesn't waste it.
'Early Man' does lose a little of its lustre, in pace and material, towards the end, the one part where the story's predictability is most obvious (up to this point the gags, inventive visuals and puns made things feel fresh) and less overlook-able. The easily foreseeable conclusion is also a little too pat.
Otherwise, as clichéd as it sounds, could find little else to fault 'Early Man'. Visually, the film is a delight. It is rich in colour and detail, the characters are adorable and cleverly modelled and there is some nice visual invention here, like the cave paintings. One is genuinely immersed in this colourful Stone Age world. The music score is suitably energetic and really gives the film its momentum and adds to it.
As to be hoped, 'Early Man' really entertains...hugely, both in sending up the Stone Age and football. Despite how mismatched it sounds having Stone Age inhabitants having their version of football, the combination actually goes very well. Any film that helps me appreciate football better, like 'Early Man' did, is worthy of any kind of credit.
The gags come thick and fast, there's plenty of them and they are subtle, clever and often hilarious, in typical Aardman fashion. Love their versions of technology, like the beetle electric shaver and the crocodile clothes pegs. There are some inspired puns and wordplay, like the duo of football pundits, primordial soup and the name Goona. 'Early Man' makes a lot of effort appealing to kids and adults alike and succeeds in doing that.
Kids will be thoroughly absorbed in the action and the inventive ideas and technology while adults will love, or at least appreciate, the puns (which they are actually more likely to get) and there is even a Mud reference to get nostalgic over. The pacing is spirited and tight throughout, and while the story is not much new and loses steam towards the end the energy and that it never goes wayward are to be applauded.
Characters are uniformly engaging, from the likeable protagonist, hilarious supporting characters to the camp villains. The voice cast are a talented bunch and they are all terrific, even those who raises some initial surprise in their involvement (i.e. Eddie Redmayne and Maisie Williams) do a great job, while Timothy Spall, Mark Williams and Tom Hiddleston (experienced in villain roles and not unfamiliar to voice work, both of them obvious) are standouts.
In summary, immensely enjoyable family fare for something for all ages. 8/10 Bethany Cox