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ICE AGE
Reviewed December 9th, 2002 by Brian White

 

So hereís somebody else taking a kick at the can. Pixar and Disney have hit several grand slams with the Bugís Life and Monsters Inc, and the Toy Story movies. DreamWorks caught lightning in a bottle with the fantastic Shrek, and now 20th Century Fox brings forth Ice Age. Computer animated movie making is having a very good streak lately. There have been many fantastic CGI movies over the last few years. These films have made bucket-loads of money, so it is no surprise that Fox wanted a piece of the pie.

Fox has followed the formula quite well. They hired Blue Sky studios, who gained some acclaim with their short-form film Bunny. Executives at Fox drafted a story that they thought would work, and called in the CGI animation studio to do their magic.

Much to their credit, Fox approaches this film not from the cynical-but-funny perspective of Shrek, but from the more difficult, sincere approach always taken by Pixar. You have an excellent story about outcasts finding somewhere to belong when they take on a selfless mission. There is ample drama, and a generous amount of really funny physical comedy.

Added to this very good story is the great voice-acting cast. Ray Romano is perfectly cast as Manfred, the wooly mammoth. The performance is great for this impatient, putout character. John Leguizamo is excellent as Sid the Sloth, and you discover in the ample behind-the-scenes stuff that he really threw his everything into the role. Dennis Leary defects from Pixar to voice the Diego, the Saber-tooth tiger.

How is the animation? Fantastic. I absolutely love the look of this film. The design for the characters and the scenery is very stylized. Youíll immediately be swept up by all of the color and great backgrounds in the opening scenes. The look for backgrounds is a cool mix of the Rankin-Bass holiday cartoons, and Warner Bros. cartoons. The fur-effects are very good, though not to the level of those seen in Monsters Inc. While the animation is very good, but the artistic design of the film and all of the color take the cake. The ice-slide sequence is pure eye candy.

The movie is directed with more than a hint of mischief. You only have to look at poor Scrat chasing his nuts through the movie, and see what calamities visit Sid, to realize that the people behind the flick are very funny. The movie is successful in that it meets all of its goals. It isnít on the Pixar or Shrek level, but I have no doubt that Blue Sky and Fox will be there soon.

Once again, a CGI movie is a demonstration disc for your system. The two-disc set boasts an anamorphic, 1.85:1 transfer, as well as a full-frame transfer (both on disc one). It is direct digital transfer, so you know what to expect. Colors pop, and detail is incredible.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is very active. There are lots of things raining down around you. There are also lots of things getting swung around your head. The hailstorm sounds pretty cool, as does almost everything else.

Directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha provide a feature-length commentary. They are, understandably, quite proud of their achievement. You get all of the technical stuff, and they explain the evolution of the story. As for the other extras, there is a huge wealth of behind-the-scenes bits, and extras. You get nearly everything youíve grown used to with the other CGI special editions. There is plenty of footage of the actors reading their lines into microphones, and emoting about how great the movie is. Leguizamo really got into this part. His enthusiasm is quite palpable as you see him dive into his character, and discuss the research that he did. You also get to see all the magic that is a bunch of guys at their computers creating an animated flick. Other than the original making-of stuff, an HBO-type, behind the scenes special is included. There are also trailers, deleted scenes, games, DVD-ROM stuff... you get the picture. This is a feature-loaded package.

 

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