Back when the Earth was being overrun by glaciers, and animals were scurrying to save themselves from the upcoming Ice Age, a sloth named Sid, a woolly mammoth named Manny, and a saber-toothed tiger named Diego are forced to become unlikely heroes. The three reluctantly come together when they have to return a human child to its father while braving the deadly elements of the impending Ice Age.Written by
`Ice Age' emerges as one of the better animated films of recent years, cleverly designed and even more cleverly written. Scenarists Michael Berg, Michael J. Wilson and Peter Ackerman have devised a story set 20,000 years ago about an unlikely trio of companions who find themselves making a long trek through a harsh environment in an effort, ostensibly, to return a baby human to the tribe from which he has become separated. The triumvirate is made up of a deadpan, cynical mammoth, a wisecracking, over-the-top sloth (whose mile-a-minute mouth more than makes up for his legendary slowness) and a malevolent saber-tooth tiger, who learns a thing or two about friendship and teamwork before the adventure is over.
`Ice Age' is at its most amusing in those scenes in which the characters make prescient jokes about their own place in the evolutionary scheme of things. One particularly clever scene involves the three travelers discovering what looks like an underground museum of natural history encased in ice, replete with ancient creatures caught in naturally occurring, chain-of-life exhibits. Like most animated films set in the past, `Ice Age' derives much of its humor through the use of anachronism. We chuckle to hear these creatures applying modern, scientific knowledge to the pre-scientific era in which they are living.
The animators and designers have done a beautiful job in achieving just the right look for this tale. The backgrounds have a colorful, clean, streamlined look to them, and the animals themselves, in their appearance and design, provide a witty commentary on evolutionary history. Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary do superb voiceover work, each achieving just the right tone for the character he has been assigned to play. One could wish, perhaps, for a bit less sentimentality at the end, but that is a minor quibble in a film that works so well for both children and adults. The kids will revel in the cuteness of the animals and the clever action sequences, while adults will savor the sly knowingness of the evolutionary and historical in-jokes. Not bad in an era when most films can't find a way to please even ONE audience demographic.
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