Friday, July 13, 2012

Original "Ice Age" Still Cool

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux


Ice Age (2002) – computer animated
Running time: 81 minutes (1 hour, 21 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild peril
DIRECTOR: Chris Wedge with Carlos Saldanha
WRITERS: Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson, and Peter Ackerman; from a story by Michael J. Wilson
PRODUCER: Lori Forte
EDITOR: John Carnochan
Academy Award nominee

ANIMATION/COMEDY/ADVENTURE/FAMILY with elements of drama

Starring: (voices) Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer, and Stephen Root

The subject of this movie review is Ice Age, a 2002 computer-animated film from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox. This adventure comedy and talking-animal story follows a woolly mammoth, giant ground sloth, and smilodon (a saber-toothed cat) who go on a journey to return a human baby to its parents.

As the ice age encroaches upon the land, a mismatched trio of prehistoric critters: Manfred “Manny” the mammoth (Ray Romano, who gives a low key but commanding voice performance), Sid the giant sloth (John Leguizamo, a show stealer as usual), and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) become reluctant guardians of a human infant. They embark on an epic, but perilous and sometimes hilarious journey to return the infant to its tribe. Diego, however, has mixed loyalties, as his pack lies in wait to spring a trap for Manny and the baby.

Ice Age, produced by computer animation studio Blue Sky Animation for 20th Century Fox, was the first blockbuster computer animated feature not produced by Pixar (Disney) or PDI (DreamWorks). The film also earned a 2003 Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature” (which went to director Chris Wedge). If the film has a secret to its success, it’s actually two things: high quality computer animation and story. Creating computer animation that doesn’t look clunky, but instead looks like eye candy apparently isn’t easy. Pixar remains the gold standard, but after a rough start DreamWorks Animation (formerly PDI) is producing some colorful and unique looking works. Ice Age looks like the work of a studio that has been at computer animated features for a long time, although Blue Sky at the time had been making computer animated shorts and computer-generated characters for films like Alien: Resurrection and Joe’s Apartment. Other than the chunky looking adult humans, the animation in Ice Age is smooth and pleasant to look at, but most of all, the characters have character.

Cute looking characters mean nothing if they leave the audience cold. Manny the mammoth and Sid the sloth especially are lively and engaging. The animation allows both Manny and Sid’s faces to exploit the performances by the respective voice actors. Sid has a physicality that reminds of a really good physical comedian, and Sid is as animated as John Leguizamo’s hilarious and inventive voice performance of him. The saber-toothed tigers seem a bit stiff for the kind of animal they likely were. Their faces aren’t quite menacing, and they pose more than they move.

However, animated films are all sound and fury without a good story. It’s not enough that an animated feature is funny, and Ice Age does have much wry and witty humor (with some clever nods to pop culture and nice comic relief in the form of a character called Scrat). Ice Age is an engaging tale about lost souls coming together and working together to do something that is more important than their individual failures and yearnings. United they are far mightier than they were alone, and the cause (returning the human infant to his father) isn’t so much noble as it simply is the right thing to do. Anyone who believes in family and friendship can identify that, and such a goal moves beyond group alliances.

This is an all-inclusive message that embraces both traditional and non-traditional families (whatever those are). It’s a good message and a heartwarming story that makes Ice Age more than just empty, family entertainment product. Add the fact that it is often quite funny and witty, and Ice Age is a winning picture.

7 of 10
B+

Sunday, April 09, 2006

NOTES:
2003 Academy Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature” (Chris Wedge)

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