Dir: Nick Park
Runtime: 87 Minutes
A meteor strikes prehistoric Earth wiping out the dinosaurs. A surviving tribe of cavemen find the remains of the spherical meteor, which they manage to use as an early version of a football. As time ticks on the tribe stop playing football and concentrate on the important things, like hunting for food. More time passes and the Bronze age comes in and another tribe, a more evolved tribe, threaten their home.
Although the bronze age tribe have a queen it’s the greedy Lord Nooth that is pulling the strings, he wants their land and wants to put the cavemen to work in the mines. A young member of the cavemen tribe named Dug suggests a game of football against the Bronze age tribes’ team for the land and their freedom. This is a deal that Lord Nooth can’t ignore so he agrees because he thinks that the unevolved cavemen could never beat the superstar footballers of Real Bronzio. Of course, Lord Nooth will stop at nothing to make sure his team wins, and his pockets get lined with more riches.
This is a Nick Park/ Aardman production which uses the same technology and Stop-motion/ Claymation that the studio is now famed for ever since it struck gold in the 1990’s. It has the same look and feel and the same level of humour and slapstick as many a “Wallace and Gromit” or “Shaun the Sheep” feature we’ve had before. It is of course directed by Nick Park (who also lends his voice to Hognob too) and he is also credited with the story. The screenplay was written by Mark Burton and James Higginson. It has a stellar voice cast with the likes of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Miriam Margoyles, Rob Brydon, Richard Ayoade, Johnny Vegas, Mark Williams, Gina Yashere, and many more.
The visuals of the film are engaging, it falls into the same mold that Aardman productions have been doing for so long with their own style – some people like it, some don’t. Either way it’s entertaining and nice to look at. Despite using the same techniques and technology that has been used before, this feature somehow looks more modern than some of it’s predecessors like “The Wrong Trousers” (1993) or “A Grand Day Out” (1989), but you have to bear in mind those were done over 20 years ago – Aardman have come a long way and honed this skills really well so keep their art aesthetically relevant still. The soundtrack is entertaining an sure to get your foot tapping, and the level of humour is good and kind of what we’ve come to expect from Nick Park. It’s more British humour than something that might appeal to worldwide audiences, but thankfully it doesn’t silo itself just to the British. It still has a decent mix of slapstick and visual gags, as well as some more subtle humour which ranges that may not be immediately obvious to younger audiences. This is the kind of film that can be enjoyed by audiences of any age, it’s extremely family friendly and easy to watch. While this feature is undoubtedly good, the thing that stopped me rating it higher was the lack of depth to the story – the lack of complexity. Sure, it’s a film aimed at kid’s, but it became predictable and formulaic the more the feature went on. This is something that some kids may also pick up on too, especially teenagers rather than younger kids. The story is also not that original as a concept; as a film for kids then maybe so, but I can certainly think of at least 3 other films which have a pretty much similar plot. I felt as if I had seen it before, and if I hadn’t seen it, I felt I knew what was coming around every corner. I still enjoyed it though so don’t for a minute think I’m dragging this film down.
With a runtime of around 90 minutes the film is easy enough to endure but with its predictability it is easy to get distracted too. With how harmless this is, and how fit for all audiences types it is, I am sure that this will be repeated on British TV every Christmas and New Year for a long while. For transparency of this review I must admit that I’m not the biggest fan of all Aardman productions, I really don’t like “Wallace and Gromit“. I do however like “Chicken Run” (2000) and “The Pirates! In and adventure with Scientists!” (2012) and for me, this is on par with those.