MANCHESTER United formed during prehistoric times.

Well at least that is one version of events in Early Man, the new family film from Nick Park and Aardman Animations.

The director and Bristol studio, behind Wallace and Gromit, have brought their signature stop-motion claymation style to the Stone Age for their latest adventure.

But despite featuring a great line-up of voice talent (including Johnny Vegas) plenty of quirky humour and having a thoroughly charming feel throughout, Early Man a bit misleading.

The film – as far as you can make out from the synopsis and the trailer – tells the story of Dug (Eddie Redmayne) who unites his tribe to prevent the greedy Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) from taking over their lands.

Dug’s people live in a giant crater (near Manchester) formed by the asteroid that hit Earth many centuries ago.

They believe that beyond their territory is just lava-scarred badlands but actually they have missed out on the coming of the Bronze Age.

That is until Nooth comes to plunder their home for precious ore.

This sets the scene for many Stone Age v Bronze Age gags.

But when Dug challenges Nooth’s people to a football match (he discovers his ancestors invented the beautiful game) in a bid for freedom, the filmmakers basically forfeit Early Man’s distinctive dawn of time setting for an animated game of footie and a lesson about team work.

As such the story is very hollow and basic – even by children’s film standards.

But what holds it together is the wonderfully old fashioned Plasticine style animation and Nick Park’s very British sense of humour.

Every joke hits the mark and it is hard not to forgive a film that features a warthog called Hognob (think a prehistoric Gromit) who ends up giving a massage after a case of mistaken identity.

Also look out for the messenger pigeon who is like the Bronze Age’s answer to Skype with hilarious results.

Some of the supporting cast are really fun too with Richard Ayoade and Johnny Vegas bringing their distinct voices to the tribe.

And Park has a thing or two to say about equal rights through Maisie Williams’ character Goona.

A stone solid family watch – just not solid bronze.

RATING: 6/10