Ice Age
directed by Carlos Saldanha
& Chris Wedge
(20th Century Fox, 2002)

Ice Age opens with a prehistoric squirrel trying desperately to bury his last remaining acorn. Scrat is a hapless cartoon hero in the spirit of the overly optimistic coyote pursuing an elusive roadrunner. Scrat and his Ice Age co-stars are what make this animated prize from Blue Sky and Fox Animation Studios worth watching.

After the squirrel sets glaciers in motion opening both the movie and the age, the scene changes to the mammal migration, with one mammoth mom telling her brood to hurry up: "You can play extinction later." While all of the would-be survivors are moving south, Manfred the mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego, a menacing saber-toothed tiger, join forces to return a lost baby to its family. The unlikely trio travel at cross-purposes, especially since one of them is a carnivore on special assignment. The unlikely buddies predictably but charmingly encounter various challenges for their impromptu "herd."

Ice Age relies little on historic fact, but its fallacies are certainly entertaining. It clears up any mysteries of what happened to the dodo birds and contributes to the popularity of certain winter sports. You'll also be amazed what's already frozen in the seas. And, between treacherous or sentimental scenes involving the traveling trio, Scrat the scene-stealing squirrel and his acorn pop in for another misadventure.

The computer-generated animation of the animals and the scenery is lush and vivid, but the characters are the life of the movie. Ray Romano provides the distinctive voice of the gentle giant Manfred, while John Leguizamo enunciates for the annoying, inept Sid. Denis Leary is the smooth-toned Diego with complex motives and icy fangs.

Ice Age includes enough slapstick and silly humor to keep the kids' attention, plus a topical environmental jokes and nostalgic cartoon gags for the parents. If you have children -- or appreciate a fine animated story -- this movie will become a part of your video or DVD collection.

And, whatever happens to the other migrators, Scrat the squirrel is destined for stardom.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 6 April 2002

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