Diego, the saber-tooth tiger in Ice Age is a not-so-rare breed of mammal. In fact, you might be able to find him on a “Miami Vice” rerun as a sexed-up Cuban trying to hawk crack-cocaine to a bunch of hookers. Diego (Denis Leary) answers to Soto (Goran Visnjic), an overlord tiger who egregiously spews his eye-for-an-eye conservatism as if auditioning for a part on Dubya’s Texas Frying Squad. Cro-Magnon man is killing the tigers and wearing their hides, which means baby Cro-Magnon becomes prime candidate for saber-tooth breakfast. Baby meets Sid the Sloth (a strung-out John Leguizamo) and Manfred the Monolith (Ray Romano) and it’s not long before Diego discovers the meaning of power in diversity. Ice Age is considerably less evocative than a Pixar wonderland though it’s a far walk from Shrek‘s glib, postmodern notion of the Middle Ages. The film is confident enough to use only the most apt, retro-rustic musical accoutrements (here, the Rusted Root anthem “Send Me On My Way”) while Leguizamo’s motor-mouth sloth packs more punch n’ bite than Eddie Murphy’s ass. For every one-liner of “über-tracker”-proportions there’s the smug saber-tooth comedy schtick that takes jabs at everything from gay adoption to smelly junk food. A hysterical running gag posits a prehistoric squirrel’s eternal struggle for the acorn. The ratty animal is a howler of a scene-stealer—its dogged perseverance in the face of repeated existential defeat is so powerfully and visually minimalist, he could easily have been a Chuck Jones creation. Ice Age may forcibly amend inter-special relationships though its cute-quotient is impossible to resist.
Fox Home Entertainment provides two transfers of Ice Age on this two-disc DVD edition (one in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, another in 4:3 full frame), thus avoiding having to release two separate versions. The look of the film, however, seems to suffer as a result. The film's animated backdrops are still incredible to look at but the characters feel less life-like on the small screen. Compression artifacts are noticeable throughout, especially around Manfred the Monolith. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is quite dynamic, especially when Scrat is tearing up the Ice Age landscape.
Besides the two transfers of the film, the first disc also contains a full-length commentary track by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha. Their passion for the film is evident throughout though the track becomes noticeably less engaging as it moves along. Also included on the first disc are three interactive games: "Hide and Eek," "Frozen Pairs" and "Playing Darwin." Only "Frozen Pairs" should really challenge the little ones. The HBO "Behind the Scenes of Ice Age" special pales in comparison to the seven-part "Making of Ice Age" documentary. These segments are all informative and lively though its anyone's guess as to why no Play All function has been provided. A collection of six deleted scenes is almost superfluous next to the addition of two animated shorts: "Scrat's Missing Adventure" (made exclusively for this DVD) and the Oscar-winning "Bunny." A section devoted to animation progressions is wonderfully put together and allows the viewer to take a look at different perspectives of certain scenes using their remote control's angle button. Also included here is an international clip montage, a design gallery, a teaser trailer, two full-length trailers, three promo spots featuring Scrat and a three-minute Sid-on-Sid commentary that brings to mind "Mystery Science Theater 3000.
There's plenty here to keep kids entertained for hours but the Papa John's advertisement pasted inside the DVD case begs one question: is nothing sacred from the world of advertising executives? Welcome to the Ice Age folks.