Ice Age

The last time 20th Century Fox came out with a major animated film of note was Anastasia in 1997. It was highly underrated, and ignored in large part because there was no Disney logo before the film. In the meantime, more studios are venturing into animation, most with mixed results. Computer animation is all the rages these days, with good films like Shrek, horrible films like Final Fantasy, and ones falling somewhere in the middle like Jimmy Neutron appearing in relatively quick succession. Ice Age is the 20th Century Fox's attempt at taking a bite out of Disney, something that Dreamworks is slowly attempting with some success. Like Pixar to Disney and PDI to Dreamworks, Blue Sky Studios (creators of the Academy Award winning short Bunny) combined with Fox to create Ice Age, an extremely fun film that takes place at the dawn of mankind.

The Ice Age is beginning, and all the animals are migrating south to warmer places. Everybody except Manfred (Ray Romano, CBS's Everybody Loves Raymond) the Mammoth. He meets Sid (John Leguizamo, Collateral Damage, What's the Worst That Could Happen?), a sloth so annoying that his family left ditched him. They come upon a human baby, and decide that the right thing to do is return him to his tribe. Sabretooth Diego (Denis Leary, Final, Company Man) is also after the baby, but not for altruistic reasons; he wants to eat the baby. The human tribe is also on the move, so Sid and Manfred set off the catch up. Diego joins them, only so he can capture the baby and potentially kill Manfred too. Along the way, the big running joke is Scrat, a squirrel-like creature who haplessly tries to hide his acorn. Watching Scrat by him/herself may be worth the entire movie.

Ice Age works because it has things for both kids and adults. Kids can enjoy the moving pictures, talking animals, and fairly simplistic story. This is an odd group traveling around, and they really don't care for each other. In fact, they have pretty strong feelings of dislike towards each other. As they spend more time together, get to know each other, and work together to care for the baby, wariness leads to friendship and eventually to trust. Looking back, the story is kind of thin at some points, but still, kudos to screenwriters Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, (New Jersey Turnpikes) and Peter Ackerman and director Chris Wedge (Bunny) and co-director Carlos Saldanha, who manage to write a family movie that is both entertaining and wholesome. Ice Age quietly tricks children into enjoying a movie and quite possibly learning some "values." Adults can marvel at the animation and chuckle along with some of the jokes that will go over the heads of their kids. The comedy is also more of a throwback to older, more slapstick movies. One of the good advantages of cartoons is how animators can use huge, unrealistic facial distortions to accentuate emotions. Sid and Scratch are good examples of this. Their wildly exaggerated expressions, combined with the nonviolent humor, provide a goofy sense of fun that permeates the movie.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 25 minutes, Rated PG for mild peril.

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