Computer animation, there's no denying it looks amazing. Ever since Tron, in 1982, computer animation has been looking incredible and improving all the time. In some cases it even looks real (Final Fantasy Spirits within?) but without a coherent, likable story, now matter how good the eye candy, people will switch off. Knowing this computer animators have worked hard to make interesting characters contained within an interesting story, I can't think of one feature that is not, well perhaps Bugs Life.So to Ice Age which is, in essence, a good old fashioned buddy movie. It tells the story of Manny the Mammoth, Sid the sloth and Diego the sabre tooth tiger and their strange quest to return a lost human child to his father. The child was betrothed by his mother Manny after she died trying to escape a sabre tooth tiger attack, the same pack of tigers that Diego himself is a member of. Thus a complex interwoven story of trust, mistrust, betrayal and bonding is set up between these unlikely heroes. Manny is the strong father figure, substituting the grief he feels over losing his own family to protection of the child and formation of a new 'herd'. Sid is the typical dumb ass annoying kid, but with such innocence the other characters feel duty bound to help him (reminded me of a Stan Laurel character). Diego is cast as the villain, but with a heart of gold, Manny's protection and un-dieing will to succeed turning him from villainy in the last act of the film. All characters are well rounded and believable; played with gusto from their respective actors, Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary all accomplished comedians in their own right. The story while not altogether original is kept fresh and alive by the individuals involved; the writing is witty and clever, there are many comedic moments both visual and subtle, sometimes both is the same scene, say when Sid and the Baby act up together on Manny's back. It is a very heart warming story, in the best traditional Disney sense, but unlike Disney doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator, rely on schmaltz or aimed squarely at kids and the toy market.
At the time of its release in 2002 Disney's Pixar were the undisputed kings of the computer animated market, though snapping rapidly at their heels was Dreamworks PDI with Shrek. Fox took on Blue Sky on the basis of their animated short Bunny, created to see the limits of their invention rather than to make money. With such artistry as the driving force, rather than as a money making scheme to cash in on computer animation how could they fail? The resulting film was of course sensational, a box office hit and was nominated for the best animated feature Oscar in 2003. All are richly deserved.
The film has been available on DVD since 2002, why then should anyone want to fork out more cash for another copy. The original release was good value, but perhaps a little thin on extras, with no making of features etc. Since Blue Sky and Fox are releasing a new film Robots in March, it must have been decided that Ice Age needed another look at. And boy has it got one, with the extreme cool edition and a plethora of all new extras spread over a second disc, have Fox done enough to make you part with more money?
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