Ice Age – Blu-ray Review

Ice Age [Blu-ray] DVD
Available at Amazon.com

Is a “triple dip” of a better-than-average animated film really necessary?

For years, DreamWorks Animation Studios and its parent company, Paramount Pictures, have been competing with Pixar Animation Studios and its parent company, Walt Disney Pictures, in the battle of the new CGI-animated “family” film. Pixar’s crown jewel to date is the Toy Story series. DreamWorks has the Shrek series. But they aren’t the only animation studio making quality movies. Back in 2002, 20th Century Fox and its animation studio, Blue Sky Studios, released Ice Age to the world. The third Ice Age will soon hit theaters in 2009, but since then the first Ice Age has bee released on standard DVD twice already. The third time is on Blu-ray, but is really necessary?

Ice Age takes place in prehistoric times, when the Earth is on its way toward a global deep-freeze. All the animals must migrate south in order to stay alive, but Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano) isn’t interested in migrating. Defiantly walking in the other direction, Manny soon meets Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), an overly friendly, hyperactive, lisping animal. Just after Manny saves Sid from a couple of vengeful rhinos, they find a human baby that is about to be eaten by a pack of sabre-tooth tigers led by Diego (Denis Leary). Snatching the child out of harm’s way, they decide to find its parents. Diego offers to help with his keen tracking abilities, but really he’s planning to draw Manny, Sid, and the baby into a trap. However, he bonds with the others during their arduous trek, and is soon forced to choose between his new friends and his loyalty to the pack.

The voice cast is great. Ray Romano is somewhat believable as a big mammoth. Dennis Leary is completely believable as saber-toothed tiger, who turns out to have a lot of depth to him. But perhaps the best performance is from John Leguizamo. On a paper, Sid looks to be a completely annoying character. In execution, Sid almost becomes just that. But Leguizamo is able to pull back Sid just enough to be likable. Sid is the main comic relief in this film, but the interaction between Sid, Diego, and Manny is great and really make the film work. Of course, some will say that the scene-stealer was a character that never talked in the movie at all named Scrat the squirrel. Every time this character is on the screen, laughs soon follow.

The plot of Ice Age is pretty basic and not that unique. In fact it borrows heavily from similar films like Shrek, The Jungle Book, and even The Land Before Time. The story is slow to get off the ground, though. It takes almost a third of the film to lay the foundation of the film. There are no major twists or turns, but the writers were able to take a simple story and provide enough action and humor to keep young kids interested throughout.

But unlike Shrek and other contemporary “edgy” animated comedies, this animated flick is targeted towards kids. There are virtually no jokes that adults will only get. But that doesn’t mean Ice Age is not funny. There is plenty of slapstick comedy, but anyone will be able to laugh at the antics of Sid, Manny, Diego, and Scratch. Of course, there has to be a message in a film like this. The main message here is “look out for the herd,” but you don’t necessarily have to “follow the herd.” It never gets too preachy here, though, unlike similar animated films.

Ice Age takes some time to get going, but once it does it’s highly entertaining. The voice cast is great and makes all the characters likable and funny. The jokes are consistently funny as well, and despite there being no “adult” comedy adults will laugh just as often as their kids will. While Ice Age would get upstaged by its sequel a few years later, and is also a notch below Shrek and Toy Story, it still is one of the better CGI-animated films to be released in the last 8 years.

The video is presented in 1080p/VC-1 at the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. It’s an excellent picture, with sharp detail and no ragged edges. The colors are bright and vivid. Still this is only a slight upgrade over the special edition of the standard DVD released a couple of years ago.

The audio included is available in either English DTS HD 5.1 Lossless Master sound, French 5.1 Surround sound, or Spanish 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, and Korean as well. The audio is definitely top-notch as dialogue and music come out loud and clear. But see above.

Audio Commentary – There is a full-length audio commentary with the director, Chris Wedge, and the co-director, Carlos Saldanha. This is informative, but is not as entertaining as it could have been. It’s the same commentary found on the special edition of this film a couple of years ago.

“Gone Nutty” Animated Short – This is animated short that runs 5 minutes. It features a favorite character of many from Ice Age, Scrat the squirrel. This was again on the special edition standard DVD set, but it’s funny so check it out.

Deleted Scenes – There are six deleted scenes included here, that were also on the special edition DVD. They total around 10 minutes or so and you have the option of hearing commentary on why they were from Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha. The deleted scenes are not fully animated so they look a little rough. Nothing really special about them either way, though.

Ice Age is one of the better “family” CGI-animated films made since 2000. Although some will argue that Ice Age 2: The Meltdown was better. This one set the stage for that and it’s at least worth a rental if you haven’t seen it. However, if you already own the “Super Cool Edition” of film on standard DVD, it really isn’t worth getting the Blu-ray version of the film as well. The video and audio is fantastic, but this version is lacking tons of extras. Really not worth the “triple dip”.

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment presents Ice Age [Blu-ray]. Directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha. Starring Ray Romano (voice), John Leguizamo (voice), Denis Leary (voice), Goran Visnjic (voice), Jack Black (voice), and Cedrick the Entertainer. Written by Michael J. Wilson, Michael Berg, and Peter Ackerman.Running time: 81 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: March 4, 2008. Available at Amazon.com

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