Ice Age

ice-age-2002Ice Age  (2002)    20th Century Fox/Comedy-Adventure    RT: 81 minutes    Rated PG (some rude humor, mild peril)    Director: Chris Wedge    Screenplay: Michael J. Wilson and Michael Berg    Music: David Newman    Release date: March 15, 2002 (US)    Starring: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black, Diedrich Bader, Alan Tudyk, Cedric the Entertainer, Stephen Root, Jane Krakowski, Lorri Bagley.    Box Office: $176.3 million (US)/$383.2 million (World)      

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 I'm no expert historian, but I'm fairly certain that Ice Age isn't an accurate depiction of the Paleolithic Age. However, since it's one of those computer-animated family movies, we can excuse its strange ideas about Evolution and the history of Man. As usual, cute talking animals take center stage in this pleasantly amusing comedy/adventure that could easily have been entitled Three Prehistoric Animals and a Baby. In this instance, we have a cynical mammoth Manny (Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond), an obnoxious sloth Sid (Leguizamo, To Wong Foo ....) and a scheming saber-toothed cat Diego (Leary, The Ref) attempting to reunite a human infant with his own kind. This unlikely scenario begins with a huge southern migration as a herd of prehistoric animals flee the approaching Ice Age, that period when everything on the planet froze over. Manny travels against the herd, he doesn't care what's coming, he just wants to be left alone. He encounters Sid, a clumsy sloth left behind by his family, trying to get away from a pair of angry Brontops (rhinoceros-like creatures). Manny chases them off and Sid starts following him even though the mammoth makes it perfectly clear that he doesn't want a travelling companion. It looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

 ice ageMeanwhile, a pride of saber-toothed cats plans to attack a group of humans in retaliation for hunting and killing many of their kind. The leader Soto (Visnjic, ER) wants to eat the leader's infant son and he sends his lieutenant Diego to retrieve him after his mother escapes by jumping down a waterfall while holding him. Manny and Sid find the baby near a lake and the mother entrusts them with his care before disappearing in the water. They find the human settlement deserted as the people have already started moving south. Diego shows up and reluctantly agrees to track the humans, but he's secretly leading the group to an ambush. They have a short amount of time to locate the humans and return the baby before the snow and ice render the pass impassable. Overall, Ice Age is an agreeable little movie with a handful of funny bits and some decent computer animation. I'm particularly fond of the sequence that has the main characters slipping and sliding down a huge sheet of ice in a cave, it's reminiscent of the mine car sequence in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Prior to this innovation, making an animated feature was a risky proposition as there was always the possibility of crudely drawn illustrations and half-assed animation. Now, it's all done on a computer and it all comes out looking the same more or less, it's virtually impossible to botch up this style of animation. Ice Age looks good, even if the animation isn't particularly impressive. Thank God it's a legitimately funny movie! It helps that it's bolstered by some great voice talents. 

 Any review of an Ice Age movie wouldn't be complete without mentioning Skrat, that rascally saber-toothed squirrel and his constant fumbling attempts to bury an acorn. He's always getting into some kind of trouble and at the beginning of this movie, he puts a large crack in the ice while trying to stomp his acorn into the ground and ends up causing a huge avalanche. It's a cute little subplot that echoes the wild spirit of many a Looney Tunes cartoon. Ice Age works primarily due to the voice talents behind the likable characters. It's the only time that I've liked Ray Romano in ANYTHING. I absolutely hated Everybody Loves Raymond ..... way too mean-spirited! He does very well as the aggravated mammoth who's not happy about the burdens suddenly thrust upon his furry back. Manny's reason behind his loner status add an element of tragedy to the proceedings. As Diego, Denis Leary really brings on the comedy, he's hysterical as the initially diabolical saber-toothed cat whose heart slowly melts in the presence of the baby. At one point, he tries to play peek-a-boo with the baby and ends up scaring him. That's one of the funniest bits in the movie. He's also responsible for one of the best lines in the movie. After an encounter with the humans, he says to Sid, "Save your breath, Sid. You know humans can't talk." John Leguizamo also does a good job as the well-meaning sloth who always ends up rubbing everybody the wrong way. I like how the actors bring their personalities to the animated characters and make them a memorable family unit. In short, Ice Age is a sweet and funny movie. It may not be as epic in scope as the Pixar movies, but it's definitely epic in heart and spirit. 

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