Ice Age: Special Edition On DVD

Voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Dennis Leary. Directed by Chris Wedge. Aspect ratios: 1.85:1 (anamorphic), 4:3. Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (French, Spanish). Two discs. 81 minutes. 2002. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment 2004664. PG. $29.98.

Three mismatched mammals—a mammoth, a sloth, and a saber-toothed tiger—set out on a quest to return a fourth—a human baby—to its tribe. Ice Age is the latest in the recent spate of computer-animated feature films, and if it doesn't quite measure up to the brilliance of Shrek or Monsters, Inc., either in refinement of animation or brilliance of execution, it's still a welcome addition to a growing genre.

The humor isn't particularly sophisticated, but adults won't be bored. Ice Age provides its own pleasures: an encounter with a wacky troop of dodo birds, a trip through an ice cave, and, most fun of all, a running gag with the best character, Scrat. So named because he's a combination of squirrel and rat, Scrat goes to extremes to protect his precious acorn, often with consequences disastrous and hilarious. As we learn in the director's commentary, Scrat was originally scripted to appear only in the film's opening sequence, but proved so irresistible that other bits were written for him. They appear intermittently throughout the film. While not central to the plot, Scrat steals every scene he's in.

Like most computer-animated features, the video on Ice Age is spectacular. It has that clean, sharp, grain-free, nearly three-dimensional look typical of direct transfers from computer file to DVD. If it lacks anything, it's that last refinement that, for example, produced details like the fur in Monsters, Inc. But it's hard to come down too hard on Ice Age for this stylistic choice. It has a look all its own, with crisp, bright, bold colors that suit the film perfectly.

The sound is fine, too, with outstanding bass, surround activity where needed, and a well-recorded music track. But it's just a little bright; if you have cinema re-equalization, you'll probably want to use it.

Apart from the film itself (in both widescreen and full-frame transfers), disc 1 of this two-disc set includes a commentary by director Chris Wedge and co-director Carlos Saldanha as well as several games and child-friendly activities, most of them DVD-ROM–based. The bulk of the features are on disc 2. These include an all-new animated feature, Scrat's Missing Adventure, deleted scenes, production featurettes, a brief scene-specific commentary by Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), interactive animation studies, and more.

As the film's promotional campaign promised, "They came . . . they thawed . . . they conquered." This Special Edition of Ice Age does the same.

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