REVIEW: ‘Early Man’ is mostly family-friendly, with a few caveats
February 23rd, 2018 / By: Michael Foust / comments
“Dug” is a smart, forward-thinking boy living in a village of mostly unmotivated and dim-witted people.
Such is life for a young caveman in the prehistoric Stone Age. He wants to hunt buffalo, but his fellow tribesmen are content with small rabbits. He wants to fight the army that attacked his village, but the tribesmen want to retreat.
Then there’s the subject of football – or as we Americans call it, soccer. Dug knows very little about this new sport, but he’s confident that he and his Stone Age villagers can master it. He’s so confident, in fact, that he challenges the adjacent (and more powerful) Bronze Age city to a match.
If “Real Bronzio” wins the game, then the Bronze Age kingdom will continue ruling over Dug’s Stone Age village. But if the Stone Age villagers win, then they will be able to live in peace in their beautiful, lush valley – and the Bronze Age army will have to leave them alone.
It’s all part of the stop-action animated film Early Man (PG), which is in theaters and stars Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables) as Dug, Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner) as Chief Bobnar, and Tom Hiddleston (The Avengers) as the evil Lord Nooth.
It was directed by Nick Park of Aardman Animations, the stop-action studio that also gave us Chicken Run (2000) and Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015). Early Man isn’t as enjoyable as that latter film, but it’s still funny.
The film opens in the “neo-Pleistocene Age, near Manchester, around lunchtime,” with dinosaurs living alongside humans, when an asteroid strikes earth. That asteroid, it turns out, is shaped like a soccer ball, and people begin kicking it. The film then fast-forwards to the Bronze Age, with Lord Nooth and his army soon ransacking the Stone Age village.
Despite its tame PG rating, Early Man has a few elements that may concern some families.
Minimal. An asteroid hits earth, presumably killing lots of life. We see people fall into a volcanic-like pit. Mammoths, dressed in bronze and topped with soldiers, attack a village. They toss spears at the citizens (none hit their target). Someone at the soccer match gives the throat-slashing symbol. Lord Nooth tells a solder to “kill him … slowly.” (The person doesn’t die.) A giant duck attacks the villagers. We see images of people working in a mine, and we see a shadow of a solder whipping someone. During the soccer game, the action gets out of hand and extra-physical.
Minimal. Cavemen appear in various amounts of dress and undress, sometimes only in a loincloth-type garb. During a soccer match, we see a player nude from behind (we see his bottom), and then again we see him from the front, with his private parts covered. We also see cave drawings of cavemen mooning other players. One of the Stone Age women gets excited that the men are wearing “tight shorts.”
None, other than stupid (3), crap (1) and screw it up (1).
Other Positive Elements
As the Stone Age villagers are preparing to hunt, the chief says a prayer. “We give thanks,” he says at the beginning.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
The giant duck poops all over a character. When Dug’s soccer ball is flattened, he breaks into the Bronze Age city’s stadium to steal a ball. Someone eats “primordial soup.”
It’s tempting to label Early Man a pointless silly movie, but it does give us lessons on teamwork (the Stone Age team), humility (a major character late in the film), good sportsmanship (several characters), and girls in sports (a Bronze Age girl joins the Stone Age team because she isn’t allowed to play on her home team).
For Christians who hold to a young earth view of creation, Early Man is a mixed bag. It shows dinosaurs and humans living at the same time – something that young earth creationists would embrace but mainstream scientists would reject. Yet it also promotes the idea that mankind slowly gained intelligence over time – something that creationists discount.
No doubt, the filmmakers developed a plot they didn’t intend to be taken seriously. It’s up to families to decide the best approach for this movie.
What I Liked
The humor. Well, most of it. I’ve always enjoyed Aardman Animations’ films. They’re funny, creative and largely family-friendly. The stop-action animation is – as always – amazing.
What I Didn’t Like
The animated rear ends. Why are filmmakers so infatuated with bottoms?
- What does Early Man teach us about teamwork? About sportsmanship?
- In the real world, did mankind gain intelligence slowly over time – as the movie implies? What does Scripture teach?
- Describe Lord Nooth’s actions as a referee. In the real world, who makes the rules of a game? Can a referee make up the rules?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Early Man is rated PG for rude humor and some action.