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Ice Age, for all its visual wizardry, isn’t afraid to give knowing nods to the old school. The exaggerated angles of the frozen tundra would be a perfect environment for Bugs and Elmer to scamper and stalk in, and the main characters, for all their smooth-gliding beauty, look very much like niftily digitized Sid & Marty Krofft puppets. When it comes to those requisite message moments, however, Ice Age strives ham-handedly to outdo such modern matinee marvels as Monsters, Inc.—and ends up losing its squirrelly edge. Man’s inhumanity to woolly mammoths? Just stick it to Scrat again, please.
Twenty thousand years ago—or right before the world split into several tidy continents—lotsa cool-looking post-dino animals started migrating south to warmer climes. That is, with the exception of a woolly mammoth named Manfred (voiced by an especially nasally and deadpan Ray Romano), a sloth named Sid (John Leguizamo, providing, curiously enough, the same inflection he used as Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge!), and a devious saber-toothed tiger named Diego (Denis Leary, very likely chain-smoking throughout his entire performance). Manfred, a lumbering soul who looks like a cross between Elvis and Snuffleupagus, and Sid, who, despite his supposedly lazy nature, is as active as The Lion King’s vaudevillian meerkat Timon, are too stubborn to leave their home; Diego, after learning that his two new traveling partners have found the kid (they call the lil’ saucer-eyed squirt Pinky), has hungrier reasons to stick around.
At 75 minutes, Ice Age flows at a wee-ones-friendly clip. When our unlikely heroes aren’t tiptoeing over ice bridges that crumble into lakes of lava or sliding down a series of aquarium-hued loop-de-loop glacial tunnels, the action switches over to the comically demented subplot: one-man wrecking crew Scrat, finding new ways to get himself creamed in pursuit of the acorn. The script is packed with wink-wink pop references (snowboarding, NFL Films, and The X Files, to name just a few) and just as many jokes for the adept comedic voices to toss out one after the other. (“Why do they have to call it the Ice Age?” one character asks. “Can’t they just say the Nippy Era?”). There’s also a deliciously twisted scene involving a militaristic regiment of dodos, who, despite their preparedness for survival, are shown clumsily offing themselves one by one. (You parents had better be prepared for some pointed after-movie questions from the younguns.)
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The ending, however—will Pinky make it back to his Cro-Magnon brood? Will the humans kill the furry kindhearted rescuers for food? Will Diego change his snack-minded ways and learn the true value of friendship?—is as obvious as Manfred’s mind-of-its-own trunk. With the sappy score soaring, Wedge muffles the laughs and instead tugs viciously on low-hanging heartstrings not once, twice, but three times. But just before Ice Age goes out on a maudlin note, scene-stealer Scrat, in a coda set in the present, shows up for one last attempt at the acorn—and gives Wedge a final shot at snuffing out his movie’s true star. If you thought that avalanche was over the top, just wait ’til you get a load of the volcano.
There’s something very funny (and altogether rewarding) about watching a bloated, badly toupeed William Shatner tumble awkwardly across a car hood and fall violently on his fat, pompous ass. And it’s even funnier when Shatner, after this pratfall, refers solemnly back to his T.J. Hooker days—as if the lame ’80s drama were a finely nuanced Shakespearean masterpiece. On the other hand, there’s also something very wrong (and altogether disturbing) about Shatner’s being the funniest part of a movie. And it’s even more wrong when that movie happens to star Eddie Murphy.
Rarely amusing, mostly tedious, and always really, really loud, Showtime, directed by Tom (Shanghai Noon) Dey, features the promising but wasted pairing of Murphy and Robert De Niro as a couple of cops who, through the flimsiest of plot devices, are thrown together as a crime-fighting duo on a reality-TV show. Murphy is “Ice” Trey Sellars, an inept patrolman who desperately wants to be an actor; De Niro is much-decorated detective-on-the-edge Mitch Preston, who desperately wants to be left alone. After vainglorious loudmouth Sellars mucks up one of Preston’s undercover drug busts, a television producer (Rene Russo), who captures the bungled moment on video, comes up with an idea. And just like that—and with very little explanation as to why and how something like this could possibly occur—the two men are being filmed by a TV crew day and night as they try to track down a vanilla villain with a bad dye job and a big gun.
When Showtime isn’t utterly failing at spoofing Cops, The Real World, and the like (geez, weren’t we done with this premise after EDtv?) as well as buddy-cop movies (the film’s corner-cutting script makes you long for the police-procedural accuracies of Lethal Weapon), the poorly edited (and written and directed) flick wants to be a showcase for the give-and-take banter of its two stars. But the chemistry is nada. Murphy, getting rather plump in his 40s, is asked to do nothing more than once again reheat his crazy-as-a-fox Axel Foley persona—albeit without the good lines. (Devoid of anything clever to say, Murphy mainly just forces out his braying laugh and widens his eyes a lot.) And as for De Niro, well, poor Bob is supposed to be lovable but gruff, but he often just looks as if he’s stuck in a shitty comedy. (Devoid of anything clever to say, De Niro tries to poke fun at his own steely reputation—the same thing he did in Analyze This, Meet the Parents, and, yawn, so on.)
Sure, there’s a cute cameo by Johnnie Cochran, and Shatner, hired to teach Sellars and Preston how to be more dynamically coplike—his specialty is “hood-jumping”—is surprisingly effective. (When De Niro-as-Preston flubs his lines for a promo spot, Shatner gamely says, “This guy is the worst actor I’ve ever seen.”) But after a derivative no-momentum chase scene, when the newfound cop celebs are inexplicably tossed off the case, Showtime will lose even its most easily pleased viewers. Though they might want to sit tight for the credits, when Dey, realizing his laugh quotient is perilously low, tacks on a handful of lame bloopers—one of which involves Shatner talking with Russo about testicles. CP