It’s crazy to think that it’s been nearly thirty years since A Grand Day Out (1989), the legendary clay animation comedy adventure, first gained unprecedented popularity and established its protagonists Wallace and Gromit as icons of British culture.
The heartwarming English duo created by Nick Park have been said to have done “more to improve the image of the English worldwide than any officially appointed ambassadors” by the people at Icons Portrait of England. With his bizarre and fantastic style, Park bent and shaped the boundaries of modern animation in film, and constructed a world full of characters and images that touched the souls of so many British people.
Years after the failure of their last film Flushed Away (2006), which was an attempt to Americanise something that was so deeply and inherently British, Nick Park and his band of creative geniuses have returned to their roots in their newest project Early Man.
The film is a sports comedy, the tale of an underdog defying the odds set against him to win back his land. Set in an unrecognizable Manchester during the prehistoric age, between the fall of the cavemen and the beginning of the bronze age, the story involves young Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne), an honest and ambitious caveman. Accompanied by his trusty sidekick, a hilariously precocious pig called Hog Knob (‘voiced’ by Nick Park himself), and the rest of their ‘primitive’ tribe, Dug embarks on a seemingly impossible challenge to defeat the champion team from the Bronze age in a football match for their land.
The ultimate showdown occurs towards the end, but throughout, the audience is showered in moments of hilarious charm inherent to all of Nick Park’s work. The film is laced with great gags that both children and adults alike can enjoy. Tom Hiddleston does particularly well with a ridiculously exaggerated French accent as the oddly shaped and horribly greedy Lord Nooth.
The film is of course ultimately a light-hearted, family-fun movie, but that is not to say it lacks merit for adult viewers. In the age of post-Brexit drama, when the political situation makes everything in the UK seem chaotic and fraught, Early Man takes its viewers ‘back home.’ As the cavemen fight for their land (to win back Manchester), people are encouraged to watch and enjoy something unapologetically British, and remember everything great British culture has to offer.
Film reviewed at Cineworld, Edinburgh.
Image: Studio Canal