Even with the occasional clunker like Cars 2 or The Good Dinosaur, Pixar has maintained an astounding track record. Even more impressive (though considerably father under the radar) is Aardman Animations, whose entire library of films and shorts, including the Wallace and Gromit series, Shaun the Sheep Movie, and Chicken Run all rest comfortably above 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But even they were bound to get a clunker sooner or later. And here it is.

Early Man is so confoundingly lazy and uninspired you will find yourself checking the closing credits to see if Aardman’s genius honcho Nick Park fesses up to being a part of it; it plays like one of those cut-rate animated flicks that goes straight to Redbox. Full of cornball attempts at humor, more over-your-head British one-liners than you could shake a haggis at, and a plot straight out of every movie ever, it’s a true clunker indeed.

Early Man centers on Dug (Eddie Redmayne), a young caveman who lives quietly with a small group of other early men (and women) in the Stone Age. They while away the hours hunting rabbits, but Dug is yearning for something more—like a wooly mammoth. When a platoon from the Bronze Age led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) invades Dug’s village, the cavemen are all displaced to the volcano-filled hinterlands, while Dug himself sneaks his way into the big Bronze-tastic city to get some answers.

After meeting Goona (Maisie Williams), a young peddler who will obviously be playing a large role later in the movie, Dug is forced to hide in a suit of armor to escape some soldiers. When he’s discovered, the soldiers mistake him for a member of the Bronze soccer team, and he’s trotted out onto the pitch for the big game.

Of course Dug doesn’t know a soccer ball (er, football—this is a very British production after all) from a sock puppet, and it doesn’t take long for the team to discover Dug isn’t who they thought he was.

Lord Nooth is unamused (as was I by this point), and he accepts a bargain from Dug. If the Stone-Agers (along with Goona, who, naturally, is a ringer) can beat the Bronze-Agers at a game of soccer, they get their land back, if not, they’ll work in Nooth’s mines for the rest of their days. Anyone have any idea how this thing will turn out?

Sure enough, we’re already well on the path toward a Hoosiers/Rocky/Victory rip-off, where the underdogs train (via montage, naturally) and the team known as Real Bronzio (ba-dum-dum!) yawn as they overlook their puny competition. Yes, Early Man is about as inspired and creative as an insipid Hallmark movie.

There’s very little here that’s worth the time of day (much less your money), ending Aardman’s impressive streak with nothing less than a colossal thud. And did I mention the giant, man-eating duck? Oh right, there’s that too. Egad.


2/5 stars