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Ice Age

his thoroughly unremarkable computer animated film had a very cute teaser trailer, and went steadily downhill from there, beginning with the last 15 seconds of the teaser trailer, over which they played the execrable Vanilla Ice's one execrable "hit."  I never saw the film, and never particularly wanted to, until circumstances conspired against me. One night in the summer of 2003 I was eating dinner at my dad's house, and he happened to have taped it off of HBO the night before, and wondered if I wanted to watch it. We were slightly curious, so we watched it while supping on pizza and salad. What did we think? Read on.

I wrote the initial review before implementing my categorized review system, so the following numbers were added in afterwards, in July or 2004, when I created this review page.  I haven't seen a second of the movie since writing the initial review though, so I doubt my opinions have changed much.

Ice Age
Script/Story: 4
Acting/Casting: 4
Action: 6
Humor: 3
Eye Candy: 5
Fun Factor: 4
Replayability: 4
Overall: 3.5

My biggest complaint about the movie? It's just dumb. Unconvincing characters who acted with stupid motivations, a complete lack of suspense or drama, an almost completely lack of humor, and generally very dull and unimaginative plotting and animation. It's not awful, but it's just very mediocre. Like the first draft of your average Pixar masterpiece, before all of the clever dialogue and plot twists have been inserted, and before they do a final pass to ensure that not only are the graphics gorgeous, but that there is gorgeous scenery to show in the first place. Ice Age takes place almost entirely on snow and rock, and has a very boring white/brown palette, so while the graphics are clear and detailed, what you're seeing is just sort of boring to the eye.

Here follows my initial, quick review/reaction to the film.

 

June 29, 2003

Speaking of weasels, I subjected myself to the film Ice Age last night, after my dad had taped it off of HBO. We both found it very mediocre and just barely tolerable, but as I was about to write a short note on it and nothing more, I thought I'd check some online critical reaction.

Ebert inexplicably gives it a relatively positive 3 star review, and the critical mass as assembled on Rotten Tomatoes is also rather positive, with 78% approval noted.  This surprised me, since I just didn't think it was a competent film for adults.  Are they reviewing it in terms of how much children will like it? My take on it is pretty well summed up by this bit from one of the negative reviews Rotten Tomatoes quotes: 

"... Ice Age treads predictably along familiar territory, making it a passable family film that won't win many fans over the age of 12."
-- Glenn Whipp, LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS

I would be surprised to hear that any adult found it more than barely-passable, but I can see kids liking it, assuming the vivid colors and funny animation was enough to keep them going in between the relatively lame action sequences.  The dialogue was occasionally witty, but pretty uninspired overall, and I didn't care for any of the vocal talent, other than perhaps the baby's gurglings.

The plot is impossibly cliche and happily-ever-after, and overall the movie would have benefited greatly if they'd have bumped the rating up from PG to PG-13, with a corresponding increase in the action and violence.  As it was, everything potentially interesting happened off screen, and the few scenes of conflict and violence were so cartoon-y that there was never any feeling of menace or desperation, other than an early "mother running from tiger" scene.  Even the bad guys weren't really bad, and were easily and predictably defeated when the time came for them to be defeated.  Most of the bad guys weren't even bad, just sort of prickly, or obviously waiting to be redeemed by friendship.

I guess that's the point, that it's meant to be happy and friendly and never-threatening.  I would call it "Disney-fied", but ironically the film was made by 20th Century Fox's Pixar-lite animation studio.  And while Pixar is affiliated with Disney, their CG films have been very clever, but also had actual emotion and interesting characters.  Plus animation that's vastly superior to the look of Ice Age.

One thing I did like about Ice Age were the constant nods to various Looney Tunes cartoon conventions.  Lots of scenes are direct recreations of Roadrunner and Coyote cartoons, with a bunch of Bugs Bunny stuff thrown in as well.

I suppose with a bit better/edgier writing, and characters who weren't such utterly-familiar clichés, I might have liked it, rather than barely-tolerating it.  But there's no telling if it would have been a bigger hit with the parents and kids who were the intended audience.  I didn't dislike it, but I found it boring and only got through it since it was just 85 minutes, and the setting changed regularly enough that I had an, "I'll just stick with this another 5 minutes to see what happens next." feeling going the whole time.

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