|Ice Age (2002)
Starring: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary
Director: Carlos Saldanha & Chris Wedge
Ten minutes of brilliance, 70 minutes of mediocrity, one minute of brilliance. Such is “Ice Age,” the latest CGI animation endeavor, and the first by 20th Century Fox. There are moments where the spirit of the late, great Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones is surely smiling down upon the filmmakers, but it’s lost in a watered down, by-the-numbers story that bears an uncanny resemblance to both “Shrek” and the far superior “Monsters, Inc.”
The story begins, yep, in the Ice Age, with the animals making the trek south to warmer climes. Except for Manfred, a wooly mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), who decides to head north. Along the way, he runs into Sid (John Leguizamo, using a lisp not unlike Stan’s sister Shelly on “South Park”), a sloth who overslept and was left behind by his family. Manfred and Sid find an infant human, separated from his family after an attack by saber-toothed tigers. Diego (Denis Leary), the second in command of the tiger pack, finds Sid, Manfred and the baby, and cons them into following him to bring the baby back to his family, but instead is leading them into an ambush. Or so is his plan.
The biggest problem with “Ice Age” is that it has no identity of its own. If it’s not stealing plot lines and characters from “Shrek or Monsters Inc.” (the kid in “Ice Age” isn’t half as cute as Boo from “Monsters”), it’s using flat jokes about how dumb dodo birds are. The dialogue is lifeless (Leary had much better stuff to work with in “A Bug’s Life”), and the main characters are either bland or annoying. Someone will likely snort over their decision to give all of the tigers names of ethnic origin, thereby making foreigners villains, but I will resist. The movie isn’t worth the trouble.
The only saving grace is Scrat, a saber toothed squirrel/rat hybrid that spends the entire movie collecting and burying acorns. The first ten minutes belong solely to him, and they are pure joy. The animators do a fantastic job capturing both the manic and subtle that Chuck Jones did so well during his heyday at Termite Terrace. The end of the movie belongs to Scrat as well, and it’s just as fun, as is the short film starring him that’s on the bonus DVD. But those aren’t nearly enough to save the movie as a whole.
CGI animation has advanced to the point that anyone can make a good-looking cartoon. But if it doesn’t have any heart, wit, or imagination, it isn’t worth the time or money to bother. “Ice Age” plays like a project torn between two feuding camps of animators; the first group wanted to pay homage to Looney Tunes, whereas the second wanted to make a safe, inoffensive movie that would please Ned Flanders. The end result is a few enjoyable moments smothered in a pile of mush. Scrat, however, should have his own TV show.