Film Review: Cuddly, warm 'Ice Age' takes the chills away from the prehistoric past

    “”Ice Age”” is one of those frosty treats of animated film fluff: sweet, slightly sugarcoated, and lightweight, but likeable. This cold-climate tale has a decidedly warm, modern twist in its revisiting of that prehistoric frozen era.

    Courtesy of Fox

    The movie dishes up an offering of cute and cuddly critters: There’s the stoic but sympathetic Manfred the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), the wisecracking sidekick Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) and the icy outsider Diego the Sabertoothed Tiger (Denis Leary).

    The plot revolves around this oddball crew’s efforts to reunite a human infant with his family. These characters initially battle, but eventually bond with one another while braving an impending ice age.

    Call it revisionist history.

    Along the way, they encounter a pair of disgruntled rhinos, as well as the self-proclaimed “”Tae Kwon Do Dodos.”” Another running gag throughout the film is a squirrel-rat hybrid engaged in a series of thwarted attempts to store an acorn for the fast-approaching winter.

    The angular artwork relies largely upon computer-generated graphics, with the end creation looking like a cross between comic book sketches and claymation cartoons. The computer-influenced animation may draw comparisons to the techniques seen in such box office successes as “”Shrek”” and “”Monsters, Inc.”” with the use of distinct color schemes and sketches that favor action over atmosphere.

    The film also draws upon a welcome brand of prehistoric pop culture (“”all the sensitive ones have been eaten,”” laments a female sloth). The writing is clearly aimed at generating laughs with jokes that cleverly target both the waist-high crowd and parents. The movie manages several instances of sharp sarcasm while avoiding heavy doses of cynicism; Diego the Sabretooth, when asked if the sneaky Sid would be supper or snack, spits out, “”I don’t eat junk food.””

    At the heart of the happy-ending story are lessons of loyalty and self-sacrifice, traditional messages for a family-oriented film, which are served up fairly effectively in a scene that brings to life cave paintings as a form of flashback.

    For all its familiarity, “”Ice Age”” more than compensates for lack of originality with its broad-faced caricatures and iced-up humor. Cool.

    Ice Age

    ****

    Featuring the voice of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary

    In theaters March 15

    Rated PG

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