Judge Christopher Kulik would love to live in an ice age so that he could see Paris Hilton frozen solid in a block of ice.
"This is all I'm saying: this is the weirdest herd I've ever seen!"—Sid the Sloth
When it was released in 2002, Ice Age was really Fox's first foray into computer-generated animation. Before, it was Pixar and eventually, DreamWorks that reigned supreme in the field. The result turned out to be better than expected. The film was met with generally positively reviews. There were equal amounts of comedy and warmth in the story. Most importantly, however, it was the distinctive, dazzling visual style which made it stand-up against its Pixar competitors like Toy Story and A Bug's Life. The film was previously released in a two-disc special edition (in 2002) and double-dipped for a "super-cool" edition four years later. Is it now worth upgrading to Blu-ray?
Facts of the Case
Set during the last ice age—as if you didn't guess by the title—the film features three animals who team up under the most unorthodox circumstances. We start with an antisocial wooly mammoth named Manny (voiced by Ray Ramano, Everybody Loves Raymond) and a likably ignorant sloth named Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo, Land of the Dead). Against his better wishes, Manny saves Sid from some giant rhinoceroses. To Manny, Sid comes off as thoroughly annoying and obnoxious. One morning, both of them come across a woman in a river. As she is about to die, she gives them the one thing she has: her baby. Sid suggests that they take the baby to a tribe of humans, and Manny reluctantly agrees.
Then, Diego (voiced by Denis Leary, The Ref) turns up. Diego is a saber-toothed tiger whose pack has a grudge against the human population. Thus, he is sent to capture the baby and return it to his own pack. Circumstances force Diego to join the party, though he sets up an ambush later. During the journey, all three eventually learn not only to trust each other but to care for one another as they trek across snowy mountains and rocky terrain to the human settlement. Oh, yeah, there is also a squirrel-like animal called Scrat that appears at various points throughout the film. Scrat doesn't have a voice, though his sounds are made by director Chris Wedge. As a character, Scrat is mostly concerned about protecting his all-too-important acorns.
Ice Age owes a debt to two other films, one more obvious than the other. The obvious is The Land Before Time, which, like Ice Age, is set in a prehistoric area and features members of different species banding together. Ice Age does not feature dinosaurs, and its animation is head-and-shoulders above the earlier Don Bluth film.
The other film to which Ice Age bears a resemblance is John Ford's 3 Godfathers. That film stars John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz, and Harry Carey, Jr. as three bank robbers who save a baby from its dying mother and trek across a desert with the baby in tow. The Ford film has a heavy emphasis on religion and salvation, as the dusty outlaws arrive in a town called New Jerusalem. While Ice Age certainly has a moral center, it is more concerned with squeezing humor out of jittery squirrels and joking sloths than making religious allusions.
Ice Age features excellent voice work from Romano, Leary, and especially Leguizamo, who was apparently given ample room to improvise during the recording sessions. Other voices you might recognize belong to Cedric the Entertainer (Madagascar) and Stephen Root (Office Space) as the rhinos and Jack Black (The School of Rock) as one of the other saber-tooths. The film is entertaining for both children and adults and notable for its lack of double-entendres and toilet humor. The PG rating (for "mild peril") is a little surprising. There is just nothing objectionable at all in Ice Age.
Now, to answer the big question: is Ice Age really worth upgrading to Blu-ray? If you already own either of the previous DVDs, then it's not really worth it. The audio and visual components are just as stellar, with the added bonus of the DTS HD 5.1 track in English. The austerely beautiful score by David Newman especially benefits from this treatment. Otherwise, we have the same 1.85:1 theatrical presentation, which is exceptionally clean and colorful, and the inspired visuals look great. It's only during the deleted scenes that the quality suffers, though this is because they didn't pass through the full CGI process.
Fox stumbles with the extras here. The audio commentary, deleted scenes with optional commentary, animated short "Gone Nutty," and the trailers are all holdovers from the previous editions. Other extras from previous releases—which focused on animations, storyboards, and other technical contributions—are not included here.
The brief cartoon "Gone Nutty" starring Scrat is worth watching, and manages to be very funny. While I don't want to give away what happens, the short has an ingenious joke explaining how Pangaea disappeared. As for the trailers, there are three provided, including the teaser, which was really the first five minutes of the feature with Scrat. I actually like these new types of trailers in showing just one scene rather than a collection of scene snippets. However, was plugging "Ice, Ice Baby" in the Ice Age trailers really all that necessary?
Ice Age has become its own franchise. In 2006, we had Ice Age: The Meltdown. There's also a third film being made for a 2009 release: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. The latest subtitle makes no logical sense, because the films are supposed to be set after the era of the dinosaurs. Nevertheless, the original Ice Age remains top entertainment.
While the film is free to go, Fox is slapped with a misdemeanor for not
including the rest of the special features from previous DVDs. In addition, the
court would like to sentence the man responsible for using a certain Vanilla Ice
tune in the film's promotion to a year of marching with the penguins in
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Directors Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha
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