It’s not particularly surprising to be disappointed by any computer-animated film not bearing the Pixar logo. In fact, until Shrek, 2001’s rollicking success, I wouldn’t have even believed it could happen. What is surprising, is that Ice Age doesn’t even ATTEMPT to reach Pixar’s Toy Story heights, apparently content to revel in its status as Monster’s, Inc.'s second rate, half wit cousin.
Ice Age is yet another “extinction for kids” movie, one of many in a long line of baby dinosaurs, pterodactyl eggs, and sympathetic cavemen. This time, it’s the ice age, and wooly mammoths roam the earth alongside primitive man. Strangely enough, in this early world, animals can talk, and humans cannot. But when a group of would-be-enemies discover a lost human baby, wooly mammoth (Ray Romano), saber-toothed tiger (Dennis Leary), and giant sloth (John Leguizamo) must work along side each other in a journey to return the child to its home.
Visually, Ice Age is perhaps the poorest bit of CGI I have ever seen. Contrasted to the beautiful constructs of Monsters, Inc.; or even the gooey, gloppy creativity of Shrek; Ice Age is nothing but badly rendered polygons and Acme animated characters. No hint of photo-realism here. It’s like comparing a Bugs Bunny Cartoon to The Lion King. Actually, I suspect that is exactly what the folks at Ice Age were going for.
Ice Age is really little more than a collection of silly animal gags and Leguizamo one liners. Some of them are even quite funny. If that is all that we’re going for here, then I suppose I’m all for it. But then there are these strange attempts at gut wrenching sappiness, which fall painfully flat amidst sub-video game animation. Frankly, I’m not even sure the CGI they use here is up to the task of displaying the kinds of emotions these people are trying to illicit from their characters. The humans more closely resemble totem poles than they do living, breathing, creatures. It’s laughable watching their polygon-limited faces trying to emote in response to the story’s attempts at heartfelt, soft touches.
Thankfully, the main characters are animals, which are at least bearably rendered to slapstick fun levels. As a result, what slapstick there is, is highly entertaining. Sure, Ray Romano’s vocal talents aren’t particularly spectacular. But Dennis Leary and the always-odd John Leguizamo cover for his mammoth ineptitude without hesitation.
The story itself is bland, boring, and uninspired, as is the almost laughably bad animation. The film’s only real saving graces are some slapstick side trips into the world of an unlucky squirrel and a group of soon-to-be-extinct melon-hoarding dodos. Ice Age’s comedy is worthy of Bugs, but unless you’re under 5, you’ll be bored with everything else.