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Ice Age
Review written by: Alex Sandell



"I wonder if he's ever seen The Lion King?"

Don Bluth must be a very bitter man.  The Land Before Time was his movie, and it was a fun one, at that.  The idea of a bunch of mismatched prehistoric beasties making their way to some goal or another, while being stalked by hungry predators, was fairly novel for its time, and made for a good animated film.  Walt Disney apparently agreed, and decided to "remake" the thing 12 years later when they created 2000's animated dud, Dinosaur.  Now, less than 24 months after Disney's shameless steal, FOX has "remade" Dinosaur, and, like Dinosaur before it, didn't even have the courtesy to thank Don Bluth (and his various screenwriters) for the idea.

I was taken aback by the limited scope of imagination Ice Age truly has.  This movie copied Dinosaur's formula right down to the way it promoted itself.  Both films simply used their opening scenes as their trailer.  Neither of the films could remotely live up to their opening scenes.  There is essentially nothing to these movies, other than a big opening number, without voices, that makes for a good ad.  Surprisingly, there's even less to Ice Age than there was to Dinosaur, and the animation isn't half as impressive.

I'm not saying that Ice Age doesn't have some fairly pretty pictures, but there's not enough substance in the story to actually give them life.  The animation ends up feeling hollow, much like the movie.  Everything has a "been there, done that" quality surrounding it, and I'll be damned if I could find one inimitable moment to actually enjoy, solely because I had never seen anything done quite like it before.  

The whole chilly, frozen over, stone cold mess that is Ice Age seems to be the result of some helpless studio executive discovering his inner-child and learning how to type out a mind-numbing screenplay on his teenager's computer.   After the script was completed, I'm sure it was printed out and sent to committee, where it could be poked and prodded to the point of becoming profitable.  

"If we insert joke A into serious moment B and end it all with zany moment D we'll end up with Shrek!"  I can only imagine the riotous laughter coming out of these board meetings when they came up with Scrat, the cute little saber-toothed squirrel that started an entire ice age through the innocent pursuit of an acorn.  Suddenly, they could market the unmarketable.  They could actually make Ice Age look like something special.  I broke into laughter when I first met Scrat in last summer's trailer -- as did the rest of the Jurassic Park III audience -- and I thought the movie would be a real treat.  Oh, how those lowly Scratologists fooled me.  

Ice Age is not the zany Road Runner type cartoon that it appears to be in the commercials.  The funny guy  with the acorn fetish featured prominently in all of the ads, isn't even a main character; he hardly even makes it into the film as a secondary player.  If Ice Age was a school play, the person playing Scrat would be the equivalent of the kid standing up behind a piece of cardboard and playing a tree.  Other than causing the ice age, which was nothing more than a clever marketing ploy, the poor guy has nothing to do with the plot.  This is a movie about a bunch of mismatched prehistoric beasties, none of them being Scrat, making their way to some goal or another, while being stalked by hungry predators.  Am I sounding repetitive?  Consider it a warm-up.  You had better get used to repetition, if you're going to actually sit through this film.  

For those of you who care, the mismatched beasties in this film are a mammoth, a tiger, and a John Leguizamo.  This time, the goal is to get a human baby (so calculatedly cute that no amount of maternal instinct could stop any potential mother from wanting to vomit) back to its parents.  This time the predators are a group of saber-toothed tigers that want revenge on the humans, for some reason or another.  In a twist worthy of Bear in the Big Blue House, one of the mismatched prehistoric beasties is actually a member of the saber-toothed gang.  He starts out with nothing but the cruelest of intentions, but damn if it isn't sweet how that baby waddles right over to him, arms outstretched, when first learning how to walk.  Could this CGI infant expose the softer side of the Saber?  Only a 3-year-old couldn't figure out the eventual outcome.  This is literally as complicated as the film gets.

If you don't count the few moments featuring Scrat the Acorn Hunter, there is nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, in this film for the adults.  This isn't The Lion King, or Toy Story, or Toy Story 2, or Shrek.  To be honest, this isn't even Elmo in Grouchland.  Apparently, "family entertainment" was too hard, and a clever joke would have taken too much work, so this one stuck strictly with the corny kiddy slop.  Why, in that case, are they marketing the film to people like me, individuals who happen to love good animated family films such as Toy Story?  Why are they trying to pretend that this is anything more than another The Land Before Time rip-off, with the sophistication of the Tele-Tubbies?  I'm guessing it's because you don't have a 300 million dollar hit like Shrek or Toy Story unless single adults without kids have just as good a time with the movie as the parents bringing their kids. 

In Ice Age single people without kids don't count.  We're just here to help boost the film's opening weekend numbers.  In the movie itself there are two choices you can make, one is to find a lifelong mate and make lots of babies, and the other is to spend your life being miserable, without a child to call your own.  There are no in-betweens.  Itís an insensitive message, and it's actually an unnecessary one, being that so many silly humans are already busy destroying the earth by overpopulating it, even without a moronic movie to tell them to go forth and do so.  How "family values" of them.  Still, it is a very Republican message, and that, I'm sure, warms Rupert Murdoch's heart, and will, more likely than not, warm plenty of parent's and children's hearts, as thoroughly as it did Mr. Murdoch's.  

It's very telling that global warming is looked upon favorably in the film, along with the whole "mating for life and having babies" thing.  Ice Age is right wing rhetoric wrapped up in CGI packaging, but nary a person will notice.  I cringe to think of the emails I'll get from people telling me that I'm overanalyzing the film, when I should just be saying, "cuuuute," in my best baby voice.  No matter how you try to sugarcoat it, when it comes to Ice Age, the whole thing stinks, and I hope that Don Bluth demands that FOX gives him his movie back.  

On a scale of 1-10?

3 (for the decent animation and the hilarious Scrat)

Agree? Disagree? Email me at alex@juicycerebellum.com 

Click here for my review of this weekend's other big release, Resident Evil!

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Text ©(Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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