EARLY MAN — Review by Susan Granger

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With a filmography that includes “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit” and “Shaun the Sheep,” U.K.-based Aardman Animation specializes in Claymation, a labor-intensive form of stop-motion that uses figures made of clay. Animators pose the figures for each frame – every movement, every gesture – with 24 frames for each second of film. For every shot, the seven-inch-tall silicone figures are bolted into place on cleverly detailed sets that stand about two-feet high. Mouth movements are synched to pre-recorded vocal tracts. Continue reading…

Claymation began back in 1897, as artists sculpted characters from modeling clay, then photographed them, painstakingly moving the figurines ever so slightly between each picture. When displayed in rapid succession, the pictures created the illusion of movement. Edison Manufacturing produced the first clay animation film, “The Sculptor’s Welsh Rarebit Dream,” in 1908.

Set sometime between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, Aardman’s most recent release takes place around Manchester, England, where the young Neaderthal Dug (voiced by Eddie Redmayne) suddenly finds himself and his haplessly inept, rabbit-hunting clan on the verge of eviction from their once-isolated forest.

Greedy Lord Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston with an exaggerated French accent) has dispatched his colonizing troops on bronze-armored mammoths to mine ore in their verdant valley.

So Dug’s cave-dwelling tribe’s future depends on winning a soccer showdown against Nooth’s formidable footballers.

Fortunately, Dug’s ragtag, inexperienced team is coached by Goona (voiced by Maisie Williams), who dreams of being a soccer star but isn’t allowed to play on sexist Lord Nooth’s team. Extensive training montages prove that she’s determined to prove herself on the pitch.

Utilizing quirky characters created by Nick Park, it’s superficially scripted by Mark Burton and James Higginson as the first prehistoric underdog sports movie. Too bad it’s not more original and inventive. All the sight/sound gags are predictable and formulaic, even clichéd, many stemming from “The Flintstones.”

The smartest and most memorable character is Dug’s sentient wild boar Hognob, whose grunts and snuffles are supplied by director Nick Park.

On the Grange Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Early Man” is a silly 6, a primeval disappointment.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.