EARLY MAN Cert PG Running time 88 minutes Stars 4

English football is stuck in the dark ages in this deliriously daft family animation.

The makers of Wallace and Gromit return to the big screen with a pre-historic adventure, created in their trademark clay model characters and traditional stop-motion technique. 

From the kick off it’s filled with their familiar combination of slapstick, puns and glorious attention to detail.

determinedly populist plot pits the local underdogs versus wealthy European sophisticates in a game of football.

Caveman Dug and his tribe are captured by a Bronze Age invaders, and only by agreeing to a football match can Dug’s tribe win their freedom.

Dug has to train his agricultural inclined players to work as a team, relying on hard work and heart, rather than those suspicious innovations of skill and tactics.

Exploitative foreign administrators and gloating Germanic players come in for some harsh treatment, and the way bad guys have used their mineral wealth to find a team of high maintenance mercenary foreign players will not be lost on fans of the beautiful game.

And there’s no escaping the gentrification of the game, with the principal players being voiced by posh actors Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hiddleston, while working class Johnny Vegas is pushed firmly to the back of the team.

From the beginning scene featuring a homage to the stop motion masterpieces of filmmaker Ray Harryhausen, this is is a riot of references to British film history and terrace culture.

So the famous words of commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme mingle with nods to Terry Gilliam and Gregory’s Girl. 

There’s a return to the directors chair for four time Oscar winner Nick Park, it’s his first feature film since the wonderful 2005’s Wallace And Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Another rabbit features prominently here, and despite some close shaves, no animals were harmed in the making of this movie.

 

 

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