I don’t go to as many animated feature films as I used to. There seem to be so many of them these days, and most of them just don’t appeal to me.
But I will always make time for an animated feature by Nick Park.
The British animator has given us such delightful fare as “Chicken Run,” “Shaun the Sheep,” “Creature Comforts” and his masterpiece — the “Wallace and Gromit” series.
So yeah, I was looking forward to his latest, “Early Man.”
But alas, it seems even the great ones can have an off day.
It’s not that ‘Early Man” is a bad film. It’s cute. It has its charm. Kids will probably enjoy it. The animation is as sharp as anything else to come out of Aardman Animations.
It’s just not that funny. Or witty. Or clever. Or smart. These are the key ingredients of a Nick Park film, and they are sadly missing here.
“Early Man” is the story of a small band of cavemen led by Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall). The tribe lives in a peaceful valley where they survive by hunting rabbits.
Their peaceful existence is disrupted when a highly advanced (by Neanderthal standards) army of Bronze Age types moves in and kicks Bobnar’s tribe out of the valley.
The hero of the tale, Dug (Eddie Redmayne) wants the intruders out and goes to confront their leader, Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston). If they want to win back their homeland, Dug and his friends must best Nooth’s champions in a game of football (or as we Americans call it, soccer).
Dug’s team doesn’t know the first thing about football, but since when has that ever been a detriment in a movie like this?
“Early Man” is, like I said, cute. It’s your typical underdog sports story that plays out just as predictably as you’d imagine. But I expect so much more from Nick Park. It does have a few brief moments of wit, but not enough to sustain an 89-minute movie.