Cast of Voices: Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Goran Visnjic,
Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer
Directors: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Theatrical release: 2002; available on DVD
From Scrat, the "saber-toothed squirrel" who's determined to hang on to what is apparently the last acorn on the planet, to an assortment of prehistoric animals and humans, this animated tale of lost and found, relationships and trust, has something for everyone.
The story revolves around the semi-annual seasonal species migration from cold weather to warm that soon reveals itself to be something more momentous. And yet, there's Manfred the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) heading north, not south, apparently wanting to get out of the herd mentality. In short order, Manfred picks up an outcast sloth, Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo), who's much more wired and bouncy than his real-life cousins would be.
While the impending cold weather sends most animals to warmer climes, it makes a pride of saber-toothed tigers eager to hunt down the food they need to survive. And the tigers remember how humans have hunted and killed their kin, so they're intent on revenge by snatching the baby of a local human tribe. The tigers are led by Soto (Goran Visnjic from TV's ER), who sends reprobate Diego (Rescue Me's Denis Leary) to nab the baby.
Diego's attempt fails, and the baby lands at the feet of Manfred and Sid, who see through the tiger's sly pitch to return the baby to the humans who lost it. But Diego's not one to give up easily. The rest of the film follows the trio as they establish and shift their relationships, build trust, and ultimately choose to work together to return the baby to its human family.
The animators and storytellers provide both a beautifully realized environment and quirky, engaging characters. They also use an interesting convention — all the animals speak English, but the humans only grunt or make unintelligible noises. Hmmm....
The film and its spin-offs have become perennial favorites and not only for kids. The pop culture references and sly asides from many of the characters and visual puns in the scenery — as well as Scrat's Wile E. Coyote-like tribulations — will have viewers of all ages smiling.