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An animated series that maintains a high quality over 3 films
on 12 October 2009
These films provide three highly entertaining animated comedies for both young and old.
The first film is an unexpected delight. Several mismatched animals from the Palaeolithic age of a mammoth, a sloth and a sabre-toothed tiger end up travelling together when they come across an abandoned human child. The comedy never lets up and the film manages to avoid descending into cutesy schmaltz as it delivers a strong story involving the child being pursued by a pack of tigers, culminating in a moving ending. There are numerous comic set-pieces, not all of which are relevant to the story. Some of these sections work such as the squirrel Scrat and his endless pursuit of nuts and some don't such as the kamikaze dodos, an idea that was probably hilarious on paper, but not on screen. But even when they don't work there's some fun to be had. Especially good is the voices. With Ray Romano playing the not-so-obvious role from his sitcom persona as the mammoth, and Dennis Leary making good use of his small role as the tiger. John Leguizamo as Sid, the annoying Sloth steals the bits of the film that don't involve Scrat.
The second movie sadly presents an inevitable drop in entertainment value that usually happens with sequels. New good voices and characters are added such as Queen Latifah's Ellie the mammoth, and the animation takes a massive leap forward, but the story is slight. The animals must go from A to B to avoid a big flood, while learning valuable lessons about life and friendship and all those things that get forced into these type of films, although usually in a subtler manner than here. As with the first one there are some fine comic interludes, usually involving the persistent Scrat and his nutty exploits that are pure Tex Avery. And the relationship between the mammoths is both funny and actually quite touching, but too much time is taken up with elements that are designed for only the kids. Making something that works for both adults and kids is hard and in many sections the film fails as the animals face complicated dangers that are meant to provide roller-coaster excitement but which rapidly become tedious.
Any fears that the series would go down the diminishing returns route that Shrek did are put to rest with the third movie. Again the animation leaps forward in quality, and so does the story. The mammoths' relationship moves on as you'd expect with Ellie expecting, but this time the tiger and Sid have more to do when Sid finds some dinosaur eggs and is plunged into danger in a jungle filled with non-extinct dinosaurs. Any thought of the film playing too loose with history is cleverly and quickly dealt with, and with Simon Pegg voicing another new character that works there's little time for the many interludes that marred the earlier film. The format of the story also splits up the herd, and although that was viewed previously as the worst thing that could happen, it actually works well as it keeps the story rattling along. And Scrat is back again and his parts avoids the danger of repetition by the addition of his very own Scratette as a sparring partner.
So, three films in and I'm already looking forward to Ice Age 4.