Patient: Ice Age
Profile: Animated tale that could have been exceptional if filmmakers had stuck to animation and not fallen into the talk for talk's sake mode that, along with Asian sweatshop labor and Gilbert Gottfried, currently contaminates much of animated film. Think The Incredible Journey meets Three Mammals and a Baby meets Three Godfathers meets Look Who's Not Shutting Their Squawk Hole.
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Symptoms:The movie's opening sequence in which a prehistoric squirrel chases an acorn is spectacular animation, hilariously choreographed—five minutes of heaven sitting in the dark that doesn't end with a remorseful appearance on Jay Leno. The problem is that immediately after that, the animals start talking. Doing the talking is a cast of cultural stereotypes not acceptable in any other form besides kid's movies and the Rush Hour series. There's the gay animals who are very gay and the Jewish ones who couldn't be any more Jewish if Leni Riefenstahl were directing. Then, of course, we have the angry loner animal with a heart of gold and a secret to hide and the mercenary with a heart of gold and a secret to hide and the pathetic loser with a heart of gold with nothing to hide and is intended to teach children that while the meek may inherit the earth, the brain damaged will get the laughs. There isn't a single scene in this movie made better by the dialogue, and still they talk, talk, talk, saying the kind of wise-cracky, pop-referential things—"This whole Ice Age thing is getting old. You know what I could go for: global warming!"—one normally finds at excruciating office parties or the WB. Diagnosis: Shut up. We like to watch.
Script Doctor Prescription: Your best scenes—the squirrel's acorn quest, the loner showing how his family was wiped out, the football sequence—are void of dialogue. So why not an entire movie with little or no talking? Radical? Not really. Though we're addicted to speech in live action, most everyone was raised on dialogue-free animation ranging from Fantasia to the Roadrunner cartoons to The Snowman. It doesn't have to be totally silent; take a tip from Nick Park's outstanding Wallace and Gromit series, where words are used to simply set up the visual payoff. Animation is a visual art. Your animals can still have expressive human features and emotion. They can still go on human quests; they just shouldn't be saddled with humanity's crutch: words. Just look at your own movie. The biggest laughs, the most poignant moments occur without talk. In fact, the nasty nature of the dialogue undermines the oft-played We Are the World theme. I mean, is it just me or haven't we been subjected to this "disparate types come together for the common good" over and over again in animated films? And yet, the world has become an even more screwed and dangerous place. I blame the twisted and inflamed agenda of Hanna-Barbera.