Movie Beat: Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston fun in charming “Early Man”

by Jenniffer Wardell

Rated PG for rude humor and some action

Screenplay by Mark Burton and James Higginson, story by Mark Burton and Nick Park

Directed by Nick Park

Starring Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade and more

Grade: Three stars


The trailers were right about how cute “Early Man” is, but I feel they should have been more honest about the soccer.

The movie, the latest from the creators of “Chicken Run” and “Wallace and Grommet,” is a sweet little story about the power of believing in yourself. At the same time, it’s also a love song to soccer (referred to in the movie as “the sacred game,” presumably so it would sell in both Britain and America without a dialogue change). If you don’t adore the sport quite as much as the people who made this movie, there’s always going to be a little something missing in “Early Man.”

The movie starts a little after the dawn of time, following a group of Stone Age rabbit hunters who live in a lush little valley created by a crashing meteorite. It turns out they missed civilization advancing around them, however, and a group of Bronze Age rapscallions kick them out and set about strip-mining the valley. After a comical trip into the Bronze Age town, however, our Stone Age heroes realize that they have one chance to get their valley back — by beating the intruders in a soccer game.

The Aardman sense of humor is very much in effect, with some particularly entertaining flourishes. The animal characters are a particular delight, particularly a wild boar, and there’s a sequence with a messenger bird that’s flat-out hilarious. If you’re at all fond of the studio, you’ll get some solid laughs out of the movie.

Eddie Redmayne is charming as Dug, the movie’s main character. Tom Hiddleston is completely unrecognizable as Lord Nooth, the villainous leader of the Bronze Age tribe, but it sounds like he’s having a ton of fun.

Still, there’s a lot of soccer. Conversation about the sport makes up at least 40 percent of the movie’s dialogue, all of it spoken with the deepest love and admiration. And, like any deeply impassioned conversation about a single subject, it can get pretty boring if you’re not into it.

Mostly, though, the movie is worth watching. Some of us just have to be patient through certain stretches.

(Photo © Lionsgate)

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