Ice Age

By Josh Albrecht

It all began in 1995.

That was when Disney released the box office gold mine “Toy Story.” With that release and its ensuing success, which has spawned a sequel, the film genre of computer animation has produced one hit after another.

The surprising aspect of this is that it doesn’t even matter which studio is producing these films, whether it’s Disney, Dreamworks, 20th Century Fox or Paramount/Nickelodeon, each movie is able to generate box office and critical praise alike. Even “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” which wasn’t heralded as a masterpiece by any means, racked in $79.8 million.

In fact, the genre even has garnered respect from the Academy Awards, which created a new category this year for Best Animated Film (“Shrek” won).

And once again, another success has come in the form of “Ice Age” (20th Century Fox), a movie that gives us a woolly mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger and a sloth as the loveable talking animals that make animation so much fun.

The story line is a little soft – a large sensitive character befriends a small wise-cracking character, which is balanced by a crafty and menacing, yet oddly loveable, third character – but it works perfectly.

The thing about animated movies is that they really don’t need a great story line if they have characters that little kids will think are cool and that parents will find funny.

Animated movies are supposed to be about humor, but rarely do they succeed when trying to be action or drama-based, because the medium lends itself to the ridiculous. The sheer fact that a woolly mammoth, a saber-toothed tiger and a sloth all would team up to help a human baby return to its tribe, while becoming best pals, is simply ludicrous.

Yet, animated movies get audiences to eat this up because it’s so removed from reality that the silly nature of the movie – like a sloth doing a basic slapstick routine – is entertainment.

And all this is aided by a superstar list of actors doing the voices. “Ice Age” features four of today’s top comedians, Ray Romano (the woolly mammoth), Dennis Leary (the saber-toothed tiger), John Leguizamo (the sloth) and Jack Black (a rhinoceros-type thing).

Couple that with the crisp 3-D animation that these movies provide and it’s no wonder why so many are good.

Perhaps the single greatest ingredient used, though, is the subtle, intellectual humor inserted into the scenes. Children will laugh at the stupidity of the sloth, but adults will laugh at the wit the writers give him. This technique, which “Ice Age” uses perfectly, allows for the viewer to not feel insulted by the utter lunacy being played out on the screen, and gives us a chance to appreciate the humor on a level above most cartoons.

“Ice Age” doesn’t break new ground or provide a grand story for us to connect with, but it does do its job very well. It entertains and it makes you laugh.