Thursday, February 15, 2018

Aardman again achieves its goal — silliness

Generally, I’ve liked the work of Britain's Aardman Animations, the folks who gave us Wallace & Gromit. Aardman’s Early Man follows the studio's Shaun the Sheep movie (2015) with a story built around a shamelessly ridiculous notion. Hapless cavemen from the Stone Age face off in a high-stakes game of soccer with a Bronze Age championship team. You probably didn’t know that soccer — football to the Brits — was invented during the Stone Sage, but fell out of favor with cavemen who never were able to win a big game. Time passed and the sport was taken over by the more advanced Bronziacs. As usual, voice work in an Aardman movie hits the spot. Tom Hiddleston provides the voice for Lord Nooth, a greedy Bronze nobleman who wants to gobble up all the bronze he's able to obtain -- legally or otherwise. Eddie Redmayne gives voice to Dug, the movie’s hero, a cave dweller who tries to whip his unruly cohorts into a bona fide soccer team. Timothy Spall does duty as the voice of Chief Bobnar, the aging head of the caveman clan and director Nick Park goes vocal as Hognob, the cheerful pig companion of the cavemen. As the creator of Wallace & Gromit, Park knows his way around this kind of animation and there are clever bits, many of them arriving as asides. Not as funny as expected or quite as wild as it might have been, Early Man boasts some of the trademarks of Aardman characters, bemused figures with hearts as big as their oversized chompers. Score this one as “amusing.”

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