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7 Lessons Kids (and Adults) Can Take Away from ‘Early Man’

Come for the caveman jokes, stay for the lessons in teamwork, accepting differences in others, and standing up to bullies.

The following was produced in partnership with Early Man, a family comedy for the ages which hits theaters on February 16.

Acclaimed stop-motion director Nick Park, creator of Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit, is back on the big screen. This time, he forgoes the fowl and were-rabbits and takes us back to where it all began for humans — the Stone Age. Early Man, in theaters on February 16, is at its heart a comedy for everyone; light on saccharine and heavy on fun. But Early Man is also the best kind of family movie insofar as it’s equal parts humorous and redeeming. In other words, expect big shared laughs over situational humor (like when a Bronze-Age woman exclaims, “Wow! Sliced bread! That’s the best thing since, well, ever!”) but don’t be surprised if you find yourself talking over some important life lessons after the movie. We watched the film and came away with seven lessons parents can discuss with their kids — in between retelling jokes about caveman intelligence.

Stand Up for Yourself
Early Man centers on Dug and his motley pseudo-family of cave-people who are being forced out of their lush valley by a pushy group of Bronze-Agers. This plot opens the door for a litany of cave-people jokes including encounters with killer prehistoric ducks and rabbits, a gag that includes an ‘electric’ shaving beetles, and men dancing with rocks (“Nice moves, Mr. Rock — you’ve been practicing.”) It also serves up a teachable moment: While most of the tribe is resigned to living their lives in the “Badlands,” Dug won’t settle for having his home taken away, and he works hard to persuade his friends that there is value in trying to win back their home. Dug continuously reminds everyone that the valley matters and works to find means other than violence to get it back for his entire tribe. 

Discussion Starter: “Why do you think the cave-people didn’t stand up for their home? How did Dug convince them it was worth saving?”

Sometimes You Have to Take a Chance
When Dug accidentally finds himself in the Bronze Age stronghold, he’s thrust into a hilarious version of ancient soccer. Could people in the Bronze Age bend it like Beckham? Historical accuracy is beside the point here; the game gives Dug the opportunity to challenge the Bronze-Agers to a match in a last-ditch effort to save the valley. Dug’s wisdom really shines through when he makes this bold decision just as the stakes are highest.

Discussion Starter: “What do you think would have happened if they lost the game?”

Do Your Homework
The cave-people are in luck when Dug recruits Goona, a girl who lives in the Bronze Age city, to improve their soccer game. Her advice isn’t limited to the fundamentals of the game; she also provides them with essential insights into what they’re up against, and she gives the team some tough homework. Goona hands out a bunch of cards, all of which contain various pieces of information on the players of the opposing team and Dug and his friends study hard the night before the big game. See kids? Doing your homework really does pay off. 

Discussion Starter: “What did they do before the game that helped them win?


Working as a Team Pays Off
Though the Bronze-Age team has excellent players, Goona reveals to Dug and the rest of his tribe that the opposing team doesn’t really function as a unit. Instead, the Bronze-Age team is comically populated by prima donnas like Jurgend, their flaxen-haired star player. As Goona points out, “they may be great, but they’re not a team.” Meaning, even if the cave-people don’t have star players, they still have the means to be greater than the sum of their parts.

Discussion Starter: “What did they do during the game that helped them win?”

Check Your Gender Bias
Though Goona isn’t part of Dug’s caveman clan, she becomes integral to their team. Why did she join their clan to help out? Like Dug, Goona is an outcast, but not because of her roots. The discrimination against her is gender-based. Because she’s a woman, she’s unable to put her soccer skills to the test on the all-male Bronze-Age soccer team. Goona is a strong female role model for both boys and girls who drives home the idea that a diverse team is ultimately a stronger one.

Discussion Starter: “Why did Goona join Dug’s team?”

Talent Comes in Many Forms
One running joke throughout the movie is that Hognob, the prehistoric warthog (and comic relief), keeps wanting to play football, but Dug and the others won’t let him, simply because he’s a pig. Of course, Hognob turns out to be a terrific goalie, and becomes a key player in the game. The bottom line: everyone encounters people they think don’t fit in. Hognob’s journey helps to show you can ditch those preconceptions and be better for it.

Discussion Starter: “Why wouldn’t they let Hognob play? What happened when they did?”

An Opponent Is Not an Enemy
Dug ends the day with an act of sportsmanship, reaching out to the arrogant Jurgend, who ends up hanging out with the other cave people. The bottom line? People you’re playing against in a sport are not your enemy. In fact, a little competition can help you recognize your common ground and bring you closer.

Discussion Starter: “What did Jurgend learn during the movie?”
Early Man, starring Eddie Redmayne as Dug, Maisie Williams as Goona, and Tom Hiddlestone as Lord Nooth hits theaters on February 16.