For most of my adulthood, few animated films have caught my attention enough to make me actually sit down and watch them. Some of them were great to watch ("The Iron Giant," "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo"), and some were just plain uninteresting ("Dinosaur," "Space Jam," and any anime film except "Robotech" and "Knights of the Zodiac"). "Ice Age," though, managed to get my attention more than once, and finally I rented it and watched it completely. It never disappoints, it’s a very well made, hilarious film that is sure to please anyone regardless of age. Even more, this film is one of the few animated films that actually manage to make you think about yourself and the nature that surrounds you.The premise is very familiar. All animals are migrating to the south to avoid the Ice Age that is approaching, all except Manfred (voice of Ray Romano), a shrewd, cynical woolly mammoth who decides to go into the north, though for what reason we never know. On the way, he stumbles into Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo, no really!) whom he manages to save from a pair of angry rhinos. Sid is the comic relief of the movie (obviously), and decides against Manfred’s wishes to hang around with him.
"A very well-made animated film for everyone"
Nearby, a small village is attacked by saber-toothed tigers, and a family there is forced to separate: While the man goes on to fight and chase the sabers, the woman manages to save their baby with her life, and it ends up right into Manfred and Sid’s care (reluctantly by Manfred). Hot on her trail and joining the “herd” is Diego (Dennis Leary), a saber who is ordered to bring the infant back alive. He offers himself to help Manfred and Sid to bring the baby back to the humans. Along the way, all four will have to rely on each other to survive the Ice Age, and try to bring the baby back to the humans while a squirrel with a nut named Scrat weaves his way through.
The animation is close to perfect. Sure, it isn’t Pixar, but since when does ALL digital animation have to come from Pixar? There are certain “fake spots” as there are with several digitally animated films in which the images and surroundings simply look “too clean,” but that’s just a detail that doesn’t have any effect in the movie as a whole. The animation was actually made by director Chris Wedges and his crew at Blue Sky studios, who were responsible for the innovative Ray Tracing type of light software, which sets its own type of digital animation, very different from Pixar's software, and in a certain way, more realistic.
But what matters in films like this is the story. It doesn't matter if you have the best computers and the latest CGI digital animation shit, if you don’t have a good story, it’s all for nothing. That's the problem I had with several other animated flicks like "Dinosaur" and even worse, with "Space Jam." "Ice Age," though, has a very good story. Sure, it has some splices from other stories and other formulas, but it’s certainly well made, full of hilarious comedy scenes like the dodo bird scenes (I’ve heard of these crackpots), the scenes with Scrat (a running joke but very effective), and a toboggan slide scene inside a cave. There are also some very tender moments, and, interestingly, a few moral lessons thrown in for good measure.
During the cave scene we’re shown, in a very good splice of classic hand-made animation, a little bit of background for Manfred’s cynicism and grumpiness. It's very touching and thoughtful, and will spin off some emotions and some thoughts about us as humans and how animals can also have the same feelings as us. Very, very few animated films manage to throw in morals like these and most just concentrate on the comedy and the story itself. Kudos to Chris Wedges and his crew for this film, since they manage a solid piece here. (On a sidenote Wedges gained notoriety for his Oscar-winning animated short film "Bunny," a moving, well-made short which is included in the DVD and which I highly recommend.)
The voices are very good from Romano and, surprisingly, from Leary. And though Sid can get a little annoying from time to time, I do give credit to Leguizamo and his comedic talent for bringing up such a voice for him.In the end, I heartily recommend this film to anyone, kids and adults. It’s a very well-made animated film, and one of the few animated films not made by Disney that has been truly successful ("All Dogs Go To Heaven," anyone?). It’s not a film that will set the world on fire or anything (though it did get a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film), but simply, if you want to have fun either by yourself or the family, this one is worth the rent.
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originally posted: 12/02/03 22:48:43