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Ice Age

01/04/2002. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

Buy Ice Age in the USA - or Buy Ice Age in the UK

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Mark brings you the inside poop on Ice Age, and discovers that while it's writing was slightly warmer than polar climate change, the next Shrek, this wasn't!

CAPSULE: During the Ice Age a sloth, a mammoth, and a saber- toothed tiger join forces and go on a trek to return a human baby to its tribe.

The story is weak on logic, but the writing is warm and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Three-dimensional animation continues to improve from film to film. The short 75-minute length seems a little stingy.

Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

Ice AgeICE AGE is set just when the title tells you it is set, the Pleistocene Era about 11,000 years ago. There has been new interest in this period. Why? As far as storytelling is concerned, filmmakers are probably sensing that the Age of Dinosaurs has been very much mined out.

Fresher and less familiar is the Pleistocene, with its own really weird animals. It is something like discovering a new age of brand new dinosaurs.

Television has brought us the British import WALKING WITH PREHISTORIC BEASTS that has shown viewers, many for the first time, the strange creatures of the recent prehistoric past.

Now we have a comic animated film set in this era. The great glacier is advancing and causing animals to migrate to warmer climates. A mismatched group of Manfred the Mammoth, Sid the Sloth, and Diego the Sabertooth (voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary respectively) find a human baby and go on a quest to return the baby to its parents.

The story of sacrifice for a human is a bit far-fetched (not to under-rate a surprising number of documented cases of elephant altruism), but the script is good-hearted and frequently darn funny.

The relationship of the strong hero and the uninvited and unwanted wise-cracking sidekick seems at times modeled on SHREK just as the relation of the shaggy beasts and the human baby will remind some of MONSTERS, INC.

Skillful animation of facial expression well-integrated with voice characterizations give real personality to the principal characters. Manfred the Mammoth is outwardly as stolid as he is solid, but as the story progresses we see into his character.

The story is made marginally more believable as it progresses in that Manfred starts trusting humans and not knowing of the relationship between humans and mammoths. The facial animation helps a lot as it does for Sid, a most un-sloth-like sloth. He is active and curious.

Diego has his own agenda which this viewer knows but the trusting Manfred does not suspect. The other major character is really just a background creature who just keeps showing up as a running gag.

The squirrel-like thing with his acorn may be the funniest thing in the film. There are some logic questions as to where he found an oak tree and why he is burying an acorn in a place he is migrating away from.

My reviews of animated films are getting a sort of sameness to them. Every new film that comes out I seem to notice new feats of animation that have not been done before. I still think of SHREK as a recent film and it was impressive that the computer could handle the surface texture of a furred animal, tracking each hair.

It made a furry animal a full character for the entire length of the film. That was impressive. Now ICE AGE is an adventure about furry animals. Everything but the humans (who are minor characters) and the dodos are furry. The wizards can do that in animation now, I guess.

Animated film continues to discover itself and broadens what it can do one film after another. It is going through an inventive stage that much like live action film did in the 1910s when directors were discovering things like that a film can have a close-up on an actor's face and the audience will understand it.

Where work still needs to be done in animation, apparently, is in making the human figures believable. Humans know their own kind and while we accept an animation of a sloth or a mammoth, the animated humans still look a little stiff and statue-like.

ICE AGE is pleasant and funny. It offers adults a little less than SHREK or MONSTERS, INC did, but a lot more than QUEEN OF THE DAMNED or a film based on a video game ever could.

I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2002 Mark R. Leeper

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