Almost thirty years ago, Nick Park and the talented animators of Aardman introduced the world to the cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his loyal sidekick dog Gromit. Eleven years later, they made their leap into feature films with the very funny and highly creative movie "Chicken Run". Now almost ten years after his last feature film, Park returns to making feature films with "Early Man", their second attempt at telling a story about caveman as the first one was taken by DreamWorks and turned into the movie "The Croods". Though it may not quite reach the heights of Aardman's previous movies, it still has enough quirky charm that I think it pulls it through.
A Stone Age caveman named Dug (Eddie Redmayne) has been living his life peaceful in a valley with his tribe chasing rabbits which is what his ancestors have been doing for millions of years. However, their peace is suddenly interrupted when their valley is taken over by the evil Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) who has forced them into the badlands filled with constant erupting volcanoes. Wanting their valley back, Dug accidentally entangles his tribe into a challenge of football (known to Americans as soccer) against the Bronze Age players. Unsurprisingly, no one in his tribe is quite familiar with the sport. Luckily, help does come when a vendor named Goona (Mayzie Williams) teaches them about football in hopes to get on the sacred fields where no women have ever set foot.
The story is definitely not one of Aardman's strongest as it is rather predictable at times, but what makes it work are the humorous moments it has. This film is filled with plenty of hilarious moments that help keep the film afloat and also make the characters rather memorable. It's certainly rather silly at times, but that's what makes the film charming in my opinion. As for the animation, I really do love the stop motion. It's once again perfectly graceful and moves without flaws like all great stop motion movies and the character designs are also very unique and original. Though there is an issue I do have with it. At times, it was very clear that some of the film might have used green screen effects. During certain scenes most particularly the climax, it looked like the characters and the backgrounds were filmed at separate times. It was very distracting and it did bog down the film at times. The characters in the movie are great. Eddie Redymane and Mazie Williams brought a lot of likability to Dug and Goona respectively and even the tribe character all had some memorable moments. Though the character that I really loved in this movie was Lord Nooth. Tom Hiddleston must have had the time of his life playing this character because he was so funny as him. The ridiculous accent he has as well as his obsession with bronze coins were notable highlights for me. Although he certainly doesn't reach the heights that Mrs. Tweedy does in "Chicken Run", he still was a lot of fun that he became one of my favorite villains from the company so far.
"Early Man" may be one of Aardman's weaker efforts, but I still feel the movie was pretty likable and fun overall. Its story was simple though still funny, it's animation is mostly great, and the characters are definitely standouts in the movie. I certainly hope that Nick Park delivers on making another great stop motion movie in the future on par with "Chicken Run" and "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit", but I think I'll be happy with his latest film until then.