A Warm and Funny Tale
Manfred, Sid, and Diego --- remember those names. In Ice Age, an all-digital animated adventure, they represent the weirdest film trio since the Three Stooges. Voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary, these creatures stole my heart in spite of their dysfunctional relationship. And why not? Romanoís Manfred is a huge, gruff mammoth trying to hide his sensitive side; Leguizamoís Sid is the most endearingly laughable sloth to appear in 20,000 years; and Learyís Diego, a saber-toothed tiger, comes across like a lamb in wolfís clothing. After they join together to return a human infant to his "herd," even the forces of nature canít stop this unlikely triumvirate.
Sometimes itís difficult for me to tell if children like the same films I enjoy, so I usually ask a few of them upon leaving the theater. Ice Age received the most positive response of any movie so far. When I questioned a little boy who appeared to be about four years old, he raised his tiny fist high in the air and shook it while yelling at the top of his voice, "Yeah! Yeah!" And guess what? Thatís exactly how I felt.
I wanted to shout "Yeah!" for the filmís unusual lighting and animation look. Director Chris Wedge (Oscar-winner for the short film Bunny) and his team used a technique called Ray Tracing which simulates the complexities of real light, such as the way it scatters off the creaturesí fur, showing not only every piece of hair but also its shadows. And the picís sweeping prehistoric landscapes evoke such a feeling of scope and scale that I worry about how much of that sensation might be lost in any video version. This movie definitely needs to be seen on the big screen.
Another loud "Yeah!" from me for the humor and heart in this delightful film. I canít remember when Iíve been so amused by a running joke in a movie like the one featured in Ice Age. That frantic squirrel-like creature trying desperately to bury an acorn just cracked me up, along with the ice. His little twitching eye (after realizing the calamities he causes) is only one of many hilarious details captured by animators.
As for heart --- no amount of ice and snow shown on screen could take away the warm feeling this movie gave me. Manfred, Sid, and Diego prove the old adage that a friend is someone who knows all your faults and likes you just the same. Sid, the sloth, fears Diego plans to eat him until the tiger tells him, "I donít eat junk food." The cynical Diego starts out as a kind of double agent, and big woolly Manny just wants to be left alone. Despite their differences, these three become as fond of each other as they are of the baby under their care. Calling Ice Age a comedy of peril, filmmaker Wedge also refers to it as "three prehistoric mammals and a baby." (Donít worry. Itís a much better film than Three Men and a Baby.)
Iím glad filmmakers found the right voices for Manfred, Sid, and Diego. With Romanoís (from televisionís Everybody Loves Raymond) acerbic vocal inflections, Mannyís misanthropic personality seems quite real. Leary (The Ref) gives Diego a "tough guy" tone that adds a bit of suspense where his character is concerned. And Leguizamo (Moulin Rouge) endows Sid with a slight lisp and a high, lively voice --- one that seems perfect for the funny, but sometimes annoying, sloth he portrays.
Ice Age goes on my list of favorite computer-animated feature films. Itís right up there with Toy Story 2, Shrek, and Monsters, Inc. Yeah!
(Released by 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky and rated "PG" for mild peril.)