"Early Man" Does Comedy Old School

Dug is an unhappy young cave dweller. And if you're wondering what's got him so, uh, disgruntled, it goes all the way back to the falling meteor.

What? You never heard that tale? Well, actually it was quite a momentous occasion.

A long time ago, this hurtling chunk of rock flew out of the sky and blew out a vast crater in the Earth's surface. It was so enormous that it devastated the entire dinosaur population (all of which must have been gathered together in that general area for a family reunion or something). And when the human populace dragged themselves up out of the resulting rubble, their first inclination was … to run into that crater and start kicking that now relatively tiny meteor around.

Hey, it was glowing. Cavemen like glowing things. And what else did they have to do?

That, of course, gave rise to soccer—or "football" as some distant tribes call it. The event also birthed something called cave drawing, since, well, those overly hairy guys and gals had to have some way to memorialize the beginning of something so life changing. After that, everything else just naturally fell into place: language, learning, pizza.

For many years thereafter, life was good for your average caveman. They all ended up living in that big ol' meteor crater after it started sprouting trees and lush greenery and became an immense jungle-filled valley.

Then something else happened to shake things up: A certain group of humans in the valley discovered this stuff called bronze. And that gave them a bunch of shiny-looking and pointy advantages over the average cave-and-jungle dweller. It also made the bronze guys really greedy for more metal ore to smelt down into that miraculous material. Before you could say ugh, they were roving the valley and kicking other non-Bronze Agers out.

And that's how Dug and his Stone Age tribe members unexpectedly found themselves shoved out of their homes and forced back into the rocky badlands full of monsters, volcanoes and bubbling lava. It's enough to make a troglodyte teary.

Dug, however, isn't one to simply grunt and slump away to gnaw on a rock. He's a fighter. Surely there's some way to get their home back. OK, war is out, since a stone spear is like a mosquito sting against a bronze shield. But there has to be some way to beat those Bronze Agers at their own game.

Hey wait, their own game. Hmm, now there's an idea.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS

Dug's intentions are good. He truly wants to find a way for his family and tribe to return to their home in the lush valley. So he makes a deal with the Bronze Age boss, Lord Nooth, to have his tribe play a famous football team for the right to go back home.

Goona, a local Bronze Age girl agrees to help train the Stone Age tribe. She says they have a chance, not because they're any good, but because they care for each other and work together as a team.

[Spoiler Warning] Dug eventually realizes just how bad his tribe is at the game. So he makes a deal to publically admit defeat and enslave himself so that they won't suffer the same fate.

SPIRITUAL CONTENT

Before going out on a hunt, the Stone Age leader, Chief Bobnar, has his tribe bow their heads in a "word of thanks." When he's done giving thanks for the tribe and the land, he shouts, "Let's go kill something!"

SEXUAL CONTENT

One of the Stone Age women coos over their "nice tight shorts" of the Bronze Age soccer team.

VIOLENT CONTENT

Plenty of pratfalling caveman thumps and tumbles are on display here. For instance: A gigantic prehistoric duck runs after a group of people, kicking them around and snapping at them with its sharp teeth. A falling meteor causes a huge, bomb-like explosion, burying people and dinosaurs in piles of rock. We see one dino's leg shake in its death throes. A man falls into a flaming crack that opens in the ground. Dug gets hit and knocked unconscious by a large bronze ball. Even football practice becomes dangerous looking as the Stone Age team gets pounded and crushed by their fellow teammates (and by falling rocks). Chief Bobnar hits his head so hard that some people think the blow might be fatal. (It isn't.)

Dug imagines his friends being whipped as slaves in a mine, and realizes he can't bear the thought of them suffering. Oh, and the cavemen do actually catch a rabbit, in the hope of having him for dinner. But the smiling critter actually kind of enjoys warming his fur above the toasty fire. (No adorable rabbits were harmed in the making of this pic.)

CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE

We hear one use of "crap." Someone else says, "Better not screw it up."

DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT

None.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS

A wall painting depicts a row of men baring their backsides at an opposing team, while a narrating character mentions their "many moons." While on the run, Dug stumbles and accidentally falls into a shower area, he ends up looking up between the legs of another guy who's showering there. The shower guy soon comes running out naked—his crotch covered by a flag on a stick.

A character passes out and those around him fear he's dead until … he passes gas. The chief winces in pain and then pulls a baby crocodile out of his loincloth. There's at least one other underwear joke in the mix. Someone gets hit by the droppings of a huge monster bird. Lord Nooth is a duplicitous guy who lies and cheats to satisfy his greed for money and power.

CONCLUSION

In the 30 years since the, uh, ancient days when director Nick Park squeezed, molded and fashioned his first Wallace and Gromit adventure (and later creating Shaun the Sheep as well as other scraggly-toothed clay favorites), a lot has changed in the world of stop-action filmmaking. We've got oodles of computer-graphic oomph these days, for one thing. And 3-D printers are all the rage.

But you can tell that Park and Co. have stuck to the early ways on Early Man: digging their fingers in and physically shaping each frame-by-frame shot for the old-school charm of it all. And their clay-formed caveman tale has lots of goofy charm up its animal-hide sleeves as well.

Of course, some folks might wonder what this film is trying to say about evolution, or mankind's role in the Earth's eventual destruction. Or maybe ask what kind of historical statement it's trying to make. But really, I don't think there are any intentional evolutionary or historical messages here. That's not the point. This is just a wacky tale about a cave-kid who tries to slow the wheels of progress and save his tribe and home. You might squint and see a light environmental message, I suppose. But that's as heady as anything gets here.

Outside of a gigantic sharp-toothed mallard deluging some guy with birdy doo, a slapstick hunting party throwing spears at adorable rabbits and a dash of Stone Age gas-passing, well, there aren't any major content issues to worry over, either. This stop-motion flick is all just zany, cockamamie clay craziness designed to make your kids cackle.

 

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