Ice Age (PG)
20th Century Fox
Director: Chris Wedge
Producer: Lori Forte
Written by: Michael Berg & Peter Ackerman
Cast: Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Goran Visnjic, Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer, Stephen Root
Rating: out of 5
If anyone should doubt Pixarís hold on the crown of computer animation, witness Ice Age, the latest offering from Fox Animation Studio after the disaster of traditional ítoon Titan A.E. two years ago. Ice Age just goes to prove that, no matter how advanced the graphics of these films, attention to detail and (GASP!) story are sorely needed to raise them above mediocrity.
Ice Ageís plot combines elements of the recent, terrific Monsters, Inc., with the mechanics of that male bonding classic, Three Men And A Baby. Sid (voiced with a cloying back-of-the-mouth lisp by Leguizamo) is a sloth who has been left behind during the annual migration south that all the animals of this time period for some reason do as a single herd. Lonely, with the prospect of coldest winter bearing down on him, he meets Manfred (Romano), a brooding woolly mammoth, who saves his life when he angers an ambiguously gay rhino duo (Cedric the Entertainer and Stephen Root) who have decided to put aside their herbivorous tendencies just this once. Sid immediately latches onto ďManny,Ē and the two form a truly odd couple in the vein of Shrek. Meanwhile, Soto (Visnjic), a saber-toothed tiger bent on revenge against humans for their systematic killing of his species, enlists Diego (Leary) to kidnap an infant from the human tribe. But the plan goes awry, and Manny and Sid end up in possession of the child. Diego deceives the two into thinking that he wants to help them find the childís family, leading them on a trek that, unbeknownst to our intrepid duo, heads straight for an ambush set by the sabers. Character growth nips at their heels.
Ice Age is perhaps the most technically advanced animated film Iíve ever seen to have absolutely no narrative ambition. Aside from the fact that its story lacks originality, it also fails to deliver on a purely visceral level, remaining strangely flat and undeveloped throughout most of its running time. Itís a testament to the importance of storytelling craft that no matter how clever the visuals are, nearly every scene is held down by its lack of rhythm. Ice Age isnít just inert; itís lifeless.
So itís final: In the horse race to advance the medium of animation into the 21st century, the current status stands thus: Pixar continues to dominate the lead, hoofing its way to a finish line fortunately not yet in sight, while Dreamworks remains comfortably in second place, rounding the corner and gaining momentum slowly but surely. But Fox, alas, is stuck back at the stalls, not quite sure what to do, nursing a broken leg.
Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.
Itís worth a full-price ticket.
Itís worth a matinee ticket.
Wait for video rental.
Check out the video from the library, if you must.
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