MOVIE REVIEW: 'Early Man' falls a little flat


Claymation film from ‘Wallace and Gromit’ director looks like a damp squib

I had every intention of writing a nice, positive review about a movie I was 99.9 percent sure I was going to love. “Early Man,” produced by Aardman Animation and the British Film Institute, is a claymation movie about a caveman named Dug, his sidekick Hognob (a wild boar), who tries to keep a bad guy named Lord Nooth from taking his primordial land and turning it into a giant mine. Dug and his buddies had ancient relatives who were futball (soccer) players according to some cave paintings. One oddball thing leads to another and pretty soon Lord Nooth and his professional futballers are battling Dug’s caveman tribe in a match to save their little patch of land. If they lose the cavemen have to become miners.

My kids and I (and the Oscars) are huge fans of Nick Park movies. I looked around the movie theater. Oh yeah, definitely not the “Black Panther” crowd. We lose our marbles over the eccentric nobs and hysterical numpties. We audiences of “Wallace and Gromit” and “Chicken Run” know we are of a certain – how we you say – (nerd alert) humor genre? We are those who make no sound as we laugh though our noses. We like satire. Wit. Character comedy. Monty Python. And movies like “Wallace and Gromit” have all those things.

But…

What the heck did we just watch? Some of it, I tried to like. Some of the jokes were spot on. Great characters. Colorful, hysterical facial movements. The puppet clay animation is always impressive.

But that biscuit-thin plot didn’t fill me up.

Why do I feel like I have to learn something? Am I being told to embrace cavemen freedom? Why am I absolutely certain the nice people are going to win over the selfish people? Oh Lord, it’s a lecture. The plot was just penny-dreadful. Maybe the movie’s director, Nick Park, has been hanging out with the wrong crowd. Maybe Adam Sandler is running a mind control operation on him. Has failing Hollywood invaded Britain or did Nick Parks move to Malibu?

The loonier is usually the better for this movie genre. “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” where a science experiment turns a cheese lover into a vegetarian monster rabbit, was brilliant. You would think Stone Age caveman vs. Bronze Age professional soccer players would totally work, but it was too canned. Too expected.

My teenager said, “Maybe there was a lot of adult humor.” Nope. It was just too flimsy to make you laugh.

My pre-teen said, it was cool but short, and it got him as excited as one of those pencils with pictures on them that you get for turning in a math paper on time. Another pencil for the drawer. The movie length was normal, but I think it felt short for him because we’ve already heard the story. It was the “Bad News Bears” all over again. How many times does the movie industry think we’re going to fall for that story?

My husband was angry. He gave me that look as we walked out of the theater. He wouldn’t say it in front of the wee children, but he later told me he felt jipped. He paid five steaks for the tickets and a whole chicken, two gallons of milk and nutritional guilt and shame for buying GMO popcorn and Sour Patch Kids.

I was simply confused. My face was smiling, but I got only two handfuls of chuckles out of that flick. The only thing that really made me feel good was that I still had a whole roll of Girl Scout Thin Mints contraband left. The movie had bored me so much I had time to use self-constraint, and the lack of range helped me not emotionally overeat.

My 10-year-old, on the other hand, wants to buy the movie. He was at the edge of his seat, laughing his head off. I will be purchasing this movie and memorizing it through the osmosis of my son’s habit of watching movies 300 times. What was it, I asked him, that made him laugh? “Everything,” he said. “The whole thing was my favorite part.” Okay. Well, there you go. Nick Park still has the 10-year-olds. He just lost the bloody rest of us.


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