September 2, 2015
Ice Age (2002)
Grade: 42/100

Director: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Stars: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary

What it's about. An animated feature set in subarctic North America during the ice age, approximately 10K years ago. Winter is coming and most animals are migrating south. The exceptions are a squirrel obsessed with an acorn, two rhinos determined to squish annoying sloth Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo), laconic woolly mammoth Manfred (v/b Ray Romano), treacherous saber-toothed tiger Diego (v/b Denis Leary), a few other malevolent saber-toothed tigers, and a small group of humans.

The unlikely plot has Sid, Manfred, and Diego teaming up to take care of an infant human until the latter can be returned to his tribe. All the while, Diego schemes to deliver Manfred and the baby to his fellow tigers to be consumed. Don't worry, it's a childrens' movie.

How others will see it. 20th Century Fox was not previously regarded for its animated features, but the studio delivered a gold mine with Ice Age. The computer-animated movie grossed about $400M worldwide at the box office, and video sales and rentals were undoubtedly as lucrative. Somehow, the movie even garnered an Oscar nomination, in the category of Best Animated Feature.

Today at, the film has a huge 300K user votes and a lofty 7.6 (out of 10) user rating. The demographics are surprisingly consistent, within a range of 7.4 to 7.9 regardless of the age or gender of the viewer. One wonders, though, whether the film would have graded as high if the saber-toothed tigers devoured the baby, the mammoth, and the sloth during the final reel; the logical outcome of its plot.

How I felt about it. I understand that this is a movie intended for children. Thus, the tigers won't eat the baby or the mammoth; our three animal leads won't starve to death or die or thirst or exposure no many how many days they wander aimlessly; and the squirrel will live forever despite never getting to eat its acorn.

Dodo birds, which were localized to the remote tropical island of Mauritius, here herd in large numbers in the North American arctic to hoard and worship watermelons, a fruit they cannot transport or even eat. Rhinos, native to Africa, and Stonehenge, which is in England, somehow exist in Canada.

I understand that it is useless to complain that the plot is bogus. Three animals, whose species are being hunted to extinction by humans, risk their lives to return a human baby to a tribe likely to reward them by killing them. That is, if it wasn't a cartoon for children.

Honestly, these issues with the movie aren't really the reason why it isn't good. Because we are obligated to pretend that the three animals are merely three strangers who team together due to cirumstances, in the roles of the clown, his taciturn protector, and the mercenary. Each in turn faces a crisis of conscience that confirms doing the right thing is ultimately for the benefit of all.

We don't argue with the movie's positive message, widely embraced by the general public. We do hold against the film its casting of Ray Romano as the lead. Ray Romano, star and producer of one of the awful long-running sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." The title is a lie, by the way. I hate that show, which features a whiner (Romano) nagged by a shrewish wife and further burdened by a clinging mother, a meddlesome father, and a hulking dimwitted brother. But the preteenaged kids are adorable. Of course.

Back to Ice Age. Aside from the one minute of the movie where the caveman drawing stick figures come to life, and briefly give the woolly mammoth greater depth than he could ever have while voiced by Ray Romano, there's not much to like. Denis Leary does okay, given his material. Leguizamo is just as annoying, and much less funny, than he would like to have been.

Ultimately, the film's greatest obstacle to quality comes from its script. Witless insults run rampant: "Lord of touch me and you're dead;" "Tigey-Wigey's gonna lead the way;" "Mr. Stinky Droolface;" "Why am I the poop checker?" Could it be because you have hands?

It is also mildly distressing that the baby laughs whenever Sid is injured. Admittedly, though, Sid is animated, and is annoying enough to merit whatever punishment comes his way.

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