Lord Nooth has a big fat one on his face mid-way through Early Man and it pleased me immensely, thinking of his creators, pinching and tweaking away for each painstaking millimetre of movement.
I had been early woman in order to catch the 9am Saturday screening of this film. Me and a big mug of tea at the local Silver Screen ended up being a very enjoyable way to spend the opening 90 minutes of my weekend.
This is the first piece of directional work from Park since the 2008 Christmas Day Wallace and Gromit short A Matter Of Loaf And Death, so expectations were high.
Starting in the Neo-Pleistocene era – a gag gift too good to miss – we meet a troop of hapless stone age stragglers (complete with the trademark goggle eyes and teeth only a dentist could love) who dwell in a lush valley which sprang forth from the crater left behind by the dinosaur-destroying meteorite.
Little does the caveman community know as they blissfully bounce after rabbit dinners that beyond their forest boundary the Bronze Age has dawned and leader, the aforementioned Nooth (voiced by Tom Hiddleston), wants to ransack the ore-rich land with not a thought for anything but the ‘cold, hard and slippery’ coins he likes to rub all over his rotund being. He and his metal-clad mammoths rocking up to announce their intentions proves something of a shock.
Our hero is Dug (Eddie Redmayne) and quite honestly he looks like he has used too much dry shampoo. But he is as good as gold and galvanises his gang into battle to win back their home in a high-stakes game of football against the best of the best – Real Bronzio. There is quite literally everything to play for.
And the plot involving the beautiful game is just about rationalised; it involves the catastrophic space debris, some graffiti and a talented soccer strategist called Goona (who I dearly wish was real and available right now to drag the club her name is a nod to back into some semblance of a team).
Snorts come from a beetle being used as a razor, a real zebra crossing, the Donald Trump soda hair that you see in the trailer (although blink and you will miss it), a quip about sliced bread, action replays and Nooth getting a trotter rub from Dug’s porcine pal Hobnob. Johnny Vegas’ vocal abilities, which bring Asbo to life, are also a touch of genius.
As a piece, I came away grinning. It is a universe that makes you feel at home with silly but satisfying fun (Park plunders the word tackle for all it is worth and there is the best joke involving a giant duck that I wanted to applaud). It goes further than humour for adults which makes having to watch a kid’s film more bearable; it appeals to the inner child. Maybe not an Aardman Animations classic, but a treat nonetheless.
I thought the Oscar-nominated Lady Bird was the little black and red insect initially, but no, it is a female version of the feathered creature, the name teenager Christine McPherson gives herself and then demands everyone calls her by.
This coming-of-age movie by Greta Gerwig centres on an emotional-swirl of a girl (Saoirse Ronan) from Sacramento who wishes ‘she could live through something’. One minute there are tears at the end of an audio book experience of The Grapes of Wrath in the car, the next, another heated debate ensues between LB and her angry and controlling and complex mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and our heroine promptly opens the door and throws herself out. She sports a bright pink cast on a broken arm for the majority of the rest of the film.
We see her fall in love with super-respectful Danny and then supercool Kyle (writing their names on her bedroom wall and naming stars in the sky with them), but neither quite cut the mustard for very different reasons. We see her battling to find her place in the world, taking up musical theatre, rejecting her adorable best friend Julie (herself with weight issues and an all-encompassing crush on the maths teacher) for the most popular and gorgeous girl in class, stealing bridal magazines, discussing masturbation while scoffing communion wafers like Oreos, defacing a nun’s car, cheating on tests, looking pretty and throwing up all over the carpet. She is sensitive, alienated, self-obsessed, infuriating, lovely.
She rebels then she apologises to her mum to keep the peace and she confides in her darling dad (the engaging Tracy Letts) who, despite the money troubles that surround him and his family, does all he can to help her to the east coast arts college place she so covets.
Both main actresses are tremendous and lead you to feel all manner of things as they drown in anguish and love. It is a masterclass in character study. Surely someone to do with this movie will be called up on stage on Oscars night.