The Scoop: 2002 PG, directed by Chris Wedge & Carlos Saldanha and starring Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary
Tagline: The Coolest Event In 16,000 Years.
Summary Capsule: Mammoth, sloth and tiger try to return a lost human baby. Important lessons are learned about the Meaning of Herd, and Ray Romano is outacted by a CGI squirrel.
Shalen’s Rating: Doom on you! Doom on you!
Shalen’s Review: I’m aware this isn’t the kind of film I usually review, but it was Thanksgiving weekend, and my family was home, and I had a feeling Mom probably wouldn’t be very into Re-Animator. So I watched this one. And I am out that hour and a half of my precious cardiac tick time, so you now get to hear my review. Sit still and shut up.
The plot revolves around a human baby who must have super powers, because he survives a fall from a waterfall and swim in an icy river when his mother does not. He is then retrieved by Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano) and Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo at his whiniest). They set out to return him to his “herd,” sort-of assisted by Smilodon fatalis in the form of Diego (Denis Leary), who is supposed to retrieve the baby for a motley pack of tigerish villains led by Soto. This is the setup for the three of them to travel around making poop jokes and bantering and learn a Big Final Lesson.
The Big Final lesson is not, sadly enough, that carnivores are unable to digest vegetables and thus Diego can eat the others or starve to death. I leave to your imagination the final resolution. Will our heroes survive? Will the baby get back to his anxious daddy?1 Will Diego turn out not to be such a bad guy after all?
To quote Lore Sjoberg, if you can’t guess the answer, I have a fun game you can play in the dark with just both hands and a flashlight. This is, after all, a children’s film. Children will almost certainly enjoy it, and adults can at least stand to sit through it. And it’s not as if I particularly want to see any more Hunchback of Notre Dame takes on that genre. I do enjoy the occasional CGI, and I own Toy Story.
But this particular storyline is a little lean on character development, unlike that one. Things just sort of happen when the plot needs it, particularly where Diego is concerned. The dialogue is partly improvisational, and it doesn’t always work. You know something’s wrong when Denis Leary is frequently funnier than Ray Romano.
There’s also the CGI. I’ve gotten spoiled on Pixar’s quality of work. This just isn’t up to that. The character models are decent (though they definitely show the weaknesses of cartoon modeling in creating human figures), particularly Manfred the Mammoth, who seems to have had the most work put into him. And since I make much MUCH simpler computer models as a hobby, I know how difficult this must have been — just rigging the models took a team of twenty-odd people. The backgrounds and landscapes, however, needed work. Often we’re looking at line drawings behind the CGI characters, and it’s just clashy. The whole production feels unfinished.
Those are things children are not likely to notice or care much about, though. And this is a reasonably safe family film,2 provided you have a talk with the kiddies and explain to them that, despite all the things they see on movies, their mommy or daddy is not going to suddenly disappear forever and be replaced by talking animals.
- 1. They’re not Neanderthals, by the way. Think that Iceman who was in National Geographic, only not mummified and leathery.
- 2. Speaking completely as an adult with no children, though, bloodless tiger fights are just lame.
Kyle’s Rating: The music reminds me of Weekend at Bernie’s; why is that?
Kyle’s Review: Ice Age was yet another wondrous surprise of a film that impressed the heck out of me. The idea, a bunch of animals haphazardly thrown together by fate and human-related circumstances (cavepeople count as “human,” even nowadays), is really nothing new. It’s kind of a standard children’s book type of story, so no real excitement there.
However: the collection of voice talent (especially Denis Leary and Ray Romano) pretty much raises the whole production up a few notches, and the humor that gets blended into the whole shebang makes Ice Age great. I haven’t seen the sequel yet, but I definitely intend to. Hooray for sequels!
I think the way each character deals with their situations helps distinguish this film. You’ve got the mammoth who is an outsider and likes it, and a tiger with ulterior motives but a clear desire to “do the right thing.” And the sloth guy is just your typical wacky sloth creature. It all kind of breaks down like you’d think it would, while at the same time each character carries their quirks in such a way that even though you see exactly how things are going to break down in order to reach that expected super-happy ending there’s still quite a lot of surprise in some of the bumps along the way. I guess it really is the journey, sometimes!
Ice Age is simply a strong movie, through and through. One day I need to either record it or buy it used on DVD. I’m not the most massive animation fan, but Ice Age is a film that I don’t mind revisiting whenever I flip to it on cable or something. No wonder people go nuts about these movies, you know?
- Scrat was only supposed to appear in the film’s opening few minutes, but he proved to be such a popular character with test audiences that he was given more scenes. He was also originally supposed to speak, but he was funnier nonverbal.
- All the actors were encouraged to improvise as much as possible to help keep the animation spontaneous.
- The drawings of characters during the end credit roll were all done by the children of the animators. The same is true of the picture that Sid draws of himself on a cave wall.
- The film opened in March 2002. Within three weeks it had become the first film of that year to pass the $100 million milestone in box office takings.
- The first drawings seen in the cave (before entering the giant area with the mammoth drawings) are replicas of the earliest known cave drawings (found at Lascaux, in the south of France). They have been dated at somewhere between 15,000 and 17,000 years old.
- The human characters never talk.
- Apparently Disney isn’t the only one who wants to kill your Mom.
- Denis Leary as the voice of Diego – I really thought he was George Clooney.
- You’d think it’d be hard to have a mammoth look like Ray Romano, but they did it. Maybe it’s the hair.
- The human baby doing the Vulcan salute at the flying saucer in the ice cave.
- The only dinosaur in the movie, frozen in ice. Apparently the consulting anthropologists insisted (as dinosaurs were extinct by the Ice Age).
- Scrat, symbolizing the paradigm of all unattainable desires. Or just a funny sabertoothed squirrel.
- Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? You can see some children’s drawings of the characters. Not very exciting.
Dodos: Doom on you! Doom on you!
Diego: Is its nose dry?
Sid: That means there’s something wrong with it.
Diego: Someone should lick it, just in case.
Sid: From now on you’ll have to refer to me as Sid, Lord of the Flame.
Manny: Hey, Lord of the Flame. Your tail’s on fire.
Sid (showing the baby cave paintings): Look, the tigers are just playing tag with the antelope. With their teeth.
Diego: Let’s play tag, Sid. You’re it.
Dodo: Well, there goes our last female.
Female Sloth: He’s not much to look at, but it’s hard to find a family man these days.
Female Sloth #2: Tell me about it. All the sensitive ones get eaten.
Manny: That’s what you do in a herd. You look out for each other.
Sid: I wish I could jump like that.
Manny: Wish granted.
Manny: Don’t make me reach back there.
Sid: He started it.
Manny: I don’t care who started it, I’ll finish it.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
- The Land Before Time
- Finding Nemo