Right in time for the FIFA World Cup 2018 the inventive people behind Aardman Animations present us with this very entertaining and very funny tale of how football originated… and no prices for guessing that in this adventure the English team (make that a Stone Age team from a place situated in pre-Manchester…) wins!

The plot is simple enough and as always with Aardman the fun lies in the characters and their depiction. Somewhere in prehistoric England (roughly where Manchester sits today) a bunch of dinosaurs and some hungry cavemen go about their business when an asteroid brings a sudden end to things. The dinos end up extinct but the cavemen, for some reason, survive. Curiously they stumble across a ball-shaped chunk of asteroid rock. Too hot to touch with their hands they instead start kicking it about with their feet and thus football was invented. Right.
Forward many, many years later and we’re now in the Stone Age where young caveman Dug (Eddie Redmayne) lives in a valley together with his pet boar Hognob (Nick Park) and his tribe, among them Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall), Asbo (Johnny Vegas), Treeboar (Richard Ayoade), Gravelle (Gina Yashere) and others. It’s fair to say that our hapless cavemen aren’t exactly blessed when it comes to hunting, in fact they can consider themselves lucky if they catch as much as a little bunny. Defiantly, Dug suggests to Bobnar that perhaps they should begin to think bigger and hunt mammoths instead although his suggestion falls on deaf ears – especially Bobnar reckons it’s not a good idea. Both Dug and Bobnar don’t have the chance to argue for much longer about the pros and contras of mammoths hunting, for the Bronze Age has suddenly arrived and with it an army of fierce war elephants (more like Trojan horses) led by the evil Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) who likes nothing better than driving the cavemen out of their green valley and into volcanic badlands where nothing grows.

In an attempt to attack Nooth’s army, Dug ends up in a cart which brings him to Nooth’s city – a city which is more like a fortress with heavily bolted gates. It is here that the real adventure begins when Dug, trying to escape, is mistaken for a football player and led into the arena like a gladiator before a crowd in a state of fever pitch. Only his fearless attitude and a promise that he and his tribe will slave away in Noor’s mines forever if they lose against the other tribe saves his life, that and the prospect that the greedy Noor can rake in high profits from the looming match. Thing is, Dug’s people don’t really know how to play the game let alone how to kick a ball, even the discovery of cave paintings doesn’t change the sorry fact. Thank goodness that Dug manages to befriend local girl Goona (Maisie Williams), a football fanatic pretty pissed off that her Bronze City doesn’t allow women onto the football pitch… and who agrees to teach Dug and his tribe how to kick the ball! After much practising the arena is finally ready for the big spectacle when Real Bronzo play against The Brutes, even Queen Oofeefa (Miriam Margolyes) is in attendance. Suffice to say that Nooth tries every trick in the book to sabotage Team Brutes but in the end it a boar named Hognob who saves the day… and the destiny of our brave cavemen.

Plenty of imagination went into this latest Aardman adventure and the actors who lend our prehistoric ancestors their voices all do a fine job. Unfortunately the overall pace isn’t quite balanced, with the first half of the film plodding along (gimmicks and action not as frequent as one might expect from Aardman) while the action truly kicks off only in the second half. Funny that Lord Nooth and his cronies are just happen to be French? And the rival team Anglaise… Oh merde!