Aardman Animation's football feature is a winner thanks to charming characters, clever physical comedy, and a simple premise about soccer's fictional prehistoric origins. Never underestimate the silly laugh-aloud goodness of a pig that wants to play soccer, a giant mallard duck, or a bunch of cavemen learning the rules of soccer. Hognob the hog, voiced by Early Man director Nick Park, is one of the movie's scene-stealing characters -- a coup, considering that he doesn't quite talk so much as, well, grunt. Redmayne's Dug, meanwhile, is an optimist who's sure of the power of teamwork, and he and Williams' soccer-loving Goona make a good team.
Kids, particularly those who play soccer, will love the movie's goofier aspects (see: Hognob) and the reimagining of how the game was born (in Manchester, England, of course). Parents will enjoy the wordplay and sight gags, and will appreciate the messages of teamwork, community, and courage. Spall's gray-haired Chief gets one of the biggest laughs of the film when he's asked to join the team and responds, "I'm too old! I'm 32" -- a wink, wink nod to both the limited life expectancy of ages past and the equally short viability of professional soccer players. The plot isn't as intricate as that of Chicken Run or The Pirates!, but it's slightly older-skewing than preschool favorite Shaun the Sheep. For families that love soccer, this is a definite goal.