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Featured Blu-ray and DVD Review: Early Man

May 14th, 2018

Early Man - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
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Early Man

Early Man bombed in theaters, even compared to the average stop-motion animated film. The critics liked it, but audiences stayed away. Why is that? Is it too British, like many Aardman Animations movies?

The Movie

The movie begins during the prehistoric times when humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth together. ... If this bit of inaccuracy is a problem for you, then you should turn around now. We see dinosaurs and cavemen fighting each other. ... The two dinosaurs are biting each other, while the cavemen are fighting other cavemen. This all ends when an asteroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere becoming a meteoroid and finally a meteorite. The impact wipes out the dinosaurs, but the cavemen survive and explore the crater and at the bottom they find a truncated icosahedron, a.k.a., a soccer ball. It is too hot to touch, so they start kicking it around and soon they invent soccer. Or football. They even paint pictures of their games onto rocks.

Flash forward a few ages and we meet Dug and his pet boar, Hognob, as they are trying to collect fruit. When he hears a herd of mammoth nearby, he wakes his Chief Bobnar and tries to get his tribe to hunt them. Bobnar dismisses the idea, because it sounds dangerous. Also, as the rock painting shows, their ancestors didn’t hunt mammoths, they hunted small round animals of some sort. It’s a good thing Bobnar dismisses the idea of hunting mammoths, because this tribe is barely able to take on a rabbit.

While the tribe is celebrating their victory over the rabbit, their valley is invading by the Bronze Age and chased out of the valley and into the badlands. Dug and Hognob get separated and are left behind, so they see Lord Nooth ordering his minions to begin mining the ore. Dug decides to fight back, but is defeated so quickly that the Bronze Age doesn’t even know they were under attack and Dug is accidentally knocked into a cart and carted away.

When Dug wakes up, he’s in the Bronze Age fort and completely out of his element. He gets swept up by the crowd going to the coliseum, chased by the guards when he doesn’t pay to get in, and some how ends up on the field as a game of soccer begins. It isn’t until he scores an own goal that the mistaken identity is revealed. At first, Lord Nooth is just going to kill Dug, but when Dug makes an official challenge of Lord Nooth’s soccer team, The Real Bronzio. Lord Nooth agrees, once he realizes he will make a lot of money on the event. He makes a bargain. If the cavemen win, they get to keep their valley. If they lose, they have to work in the mines.

At first, it looks like they have no chance, because none of them know how to play the game and learning is hard without a good coach. Then things get worse, when their one soccer ball is destroyed by a giant duck. Dug and Hognob sneak into the Bronze Age fort, specifically the coliseum, because that’s the only place where Dug knows to find soccer balls. There he meets Goona, who is on the pitch pretending to be playing in front of an adoring crowd. She decides to help Dug for a simple reason. Women are not allowed to play for the Bronze Age team, but she can make her dreams come true by playing for the Cavemen. ... If she can teach the cavemen how to play. That’s a big if.

Early Man is an Aardman Animations movie and like Studio Ghibli, for example, it has a style its films tend to adhere to. In this case, it’s charmingly silly. This is not a sophisticated movie. No movie with zebra crossing visual puns can be described as sophisticated. If you like Aardman Animations, then you will probably like this one as well, as it has much of the same strong points. For example, the cast of characters is very engaging. I don’t think I’ve seen a single Aardman Animations movie that didn’t have, at its heart, a great collection of characters. Granted, if you watch a lot of Aardman films, then Dug, Goona, and Hognob will seem familiar and that is an issue. It’s my only real issue. Okay, the familiarity and one too many poop / fart jokes are my only issues with the movie.

On the other hand, Early Man has an epic scale that makes it stand out from other Aardman Animations films. The sets are massive and this film has a scale that we haven’t seen before in other Aardman films. The coliseum is probably the biggest single set the studio has ever used, especially if you look at the number of characters seen on screen. Granted, CG was used to enhance the crowd, but this is still an impressive number of actual physical characters on the screen.

Early Man isn’t as mature or sophisticated as Studio Ghibli or Pixar movies are, but it has a charm and a silliness that kept me entertained throughout the movie.

The Extras

There are a quartet of featurettes, Before the Beginning of Time, Massaging the Funny, The Valley Meets the Bronze, and Hanging Around Aardman Studios, with a total running time of nearly 40 minutes. Most of the running time focuses on the making of aspects of the movie. I especially love seeing the men and women who physically make the models and animate them. The only thing more fun than that is seeing the voice cast getting a studio tour, interacting with their character’s models, and even dressing up in the suits made for reference videos. Overall, this is a much better package of extras than I was expecting.

The Verdict

Early Man isn’t as mature as the best animated movies, but it has a silliness that I found really entertaining. The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are more than enough to be worth picking up. In fact, it might be a Pick of the Week contender, depending on how busy next week’s releases are.

Filed under: Video Review, Early Man, Tom Hiddleston, Nick Park, Eddie Redmayne, Timothy Spall, Maisie Williams
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