Watching the Blue Sky – Ice Age (2002) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: In the dawn of the ice age, all of the animals have begun migrating south – All except Manfred “Manny” the mammoth and Sid the sloth. Sid got left behind by his family while he was sleeping and Manfred purposely went the opposite direction so he could live his life in solitude. The two are brought together when a dying woman entrusts her baby to the pair and they make it their mission to find its ‘pack’ and reunite it with its father.

Along the way, they begrudgingly team up with Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, who is sent out on a mission from his boss to get the baby, but decides to add a bonus mammoth to the haul. He sets up an ambush right next to their destination. With the tigers and the dangerous hunters waiting for them, can Manny and Sid get the baby to its father with their lives intact?

Breakdown: Ah, Blue Sky Studios – long time runt of the animation company litter. I have nothing against Blue Sky Studios, but they’ve always had a problem with reaching a level of quality that was the same as the top dogs – Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks. Funny how both Pixar and Blue Sky are now under Disney’s umbrella.

They at least tended to stay at the upper part of the animation studio B-squad list (with Sony Pictures Animation and Illumination) but nowadays I’d say even that’s not accurate since Sony keeps upping their game, especially with Spider-Man Into the Spiderverse. They probably grapple with Illumination above all else, but they’re still doing better at the box office with the damn Minions taking over all of society.

Blue Sky rode the coattails of Ice Age for a long time, to the point where it became a joke. Apparently, we didn’t know what monster franchise Shrek would truly become.

Now that the Ice Age train has seemingly stopped (There supposedly has been talks of another sequel, but nothing has been said since 2016 and their future slate doesn’t include anything Ice Age related), they don’t have much of a stake anymore. Only future endeavors will tell. I am somewhat interested in Spies in Disguise, so there’s something.

It might be surprising to some people to hear that I’ve never watched any of the Ice Age movies, considering how they were everywhere for a while. I only had bare minimum knowledge on them, too. I knew Ray Romano was in them, there was a funny acorn-obsessed saber-toothed squirrel named Scrat and it took place in the ice age. That’s about it. It just never interested me.

Now that I’ve given it a shot, I’m happy to say that it was a pretty good movie and surpassed my, albeit somewhat low, expectations. It never really made me laugh, but it kinda made me smile. The action was pretty good, and, somehow, this movie managed to tug on my heartstrings several times.

It even went down a bit of a dark path with Manny’s past. I figured his family had died and that’s why he was such a loner, but I didn’t figure that not only was it a case of him being a father and husband (instead of him losing his family as a child or something) but that his family was killed by hunters and it’s implied that they stoned them to death…..

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I also didn’t expect that Diego was on a path to being a good guy until about halfway through, which is strange because typically plotlines like that are easier to spot at the start.

I did feel a bit ripped off at the very end, though. Death fake-outs are nothing new, and this movie did a couple already, but they had what seemed to be a real death scene, goodbyes and all, for Diego near the end. We didn’t see how badly he was wounded, because kid’s movie, In fact, we can’t see any wound at all, but it’s implied that it’s a bad wound with how they’re all reacting. Manny doesn’t even argue very much when Diego tells him to leave him behind because it’s implied that he realizes his wounds are simply too grave.

I was shocked when they actually did leave him behind. For a few moments, I thought for certain that they were going to have the balls to kill off a main character in a touching and respectful manner. I was prepared to write the review and give them so much props for that. He was a bad guy gone good because of the influence of those around him and his dying act was an ultimate act of redemption…..

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……But, nope.

Right after they bring the baby back to its father, Diego just comes out of nowhere, no wound in sight, not even limping – perfectly fine. I had to pause the movie because I just felt that insulted. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Diego. That’s one of the reasons why his ‘death’ emotionally impacted me at the time. I’m glad to see him alive, but at the same time I feel insulted that they pulled such a ridiculous bait and switch.

I can’t really fault the writers here too much because, upon further investigation, this was a change made at the last minute. Diego was originally set to die, but when they presented the film to a test audience of children, they burst into tears when Diego’s death scene occurred. Since emotional responses are apparently bad, they opted to hastily rewrite the ending to have Diego unrealistically live.

From a studio standpoint, I get it. But from a writing standpoint, I don’t. You write a death scene for a main character, you get tears – that’s a GOOD thing. That’s the emotion you’re going for. Why would you see that response and take that as a problem that needs to be fixed? It’s just frustrating, is all.

Diego’s story is interesting in its own right. At first, I really thought he was merely a lackey character for the main bad tiger, but he showed some signs of having sympathy for the humans at the start and he developed a lot over the movie as he traveled with Manny and Sid.

However, I think the one big downside to his story arc is the fact that the main bad tiger is so forgettable. I even confused him with Diego several times because they didn’t do much to differentiate them, design-wise. His motivation is hatred against the humans because they killed half of his pack and worse their furs. He wants to kill the baby of this group personally because the baby’s father was the one who lead the slaughter. A bit of emotional and mental revenge rather than just killing the guy.

It’s actually somewhat weird, because, if we’re meant to hate this guy and feel sympathy for the humans because he wants to kill their baby, doesn’t that mean we’re meant to hate the humans too because they killed Manny’s kid?

The main bad tiger does have a name, Soto, but he’s so forgettable and bland that I couldn’t remember it until I read the Wiki synopsis. I even had a list of the other tigers’ names in the credits and I still wasn’t 100% sure I’d be getting his name right.

The way the humans are portrayed is very realistic, which surprised me. I thought for sure they’d be demonized like most any other hunter is in nearly any show or movie where animals are the main characters. The animals do show a clear distaste for them, even Manny, but the hatred isn’t born of ‘they’re humans and hunters, so they’re terrible beings’ it’s born of personal vendettas. Soto hates them because they killed tigers in his pack and wore their pelts, Manny doesn’t like them because they killed his family, Diego hates them for the same reason as Soto and Sid is simply afraid of them. In fact, Sid’s the one who first openly accepts the kid and vows to get it back to its pack.

One question that continues to pop up as they go about their journey is ‘Why help this kid? It’ll probably just grow up to be a hunter.’ and the answer is never really given. It’s just the right thing to do. Plus, even if you do hold a grudge against humans for hunting animals, the baby hasn’t done anything itself yet, if it will at all.

It’d be wrong to demonize them anyway because they really have no choice but to hunt animals. It’d be like demonizing literally any carnivore. Especially in the ice age considering that foliage is extremely scarce. They need the meat for food. They need the animal pelts to keep warm. They need their bones for weapons. Etc.

They show that the child’s parents are very loving. The mother literally sacrifices her life to save her child (even though the method could’ve easily killed the baby too…) and they cut to the father several times throughout the movie, holding a necklace that belonged to his wife and looking behind the group as they travel, hoping to see a glimpse of them trying to follow. It’s very sweet and sad.

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However, that’s slightly tainted when we get to the part where they show Manny’s wife and kid being killed by hunters. The wife thing is bad enough, but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth knowing they killed a baby mammoth too – the child of a main character, no less. Though, I guess that goes to show how big of a person Manny is as he doesn’t only not hold a grudge, but he lovingly cares for the kid and returns it without issue.

The dynamic between Manny, Sid and Diego is pretty good. Manny’s the voice of reason, Diego’s the also reasonable but somewhat aggressive one, and Sid’s the annoying idiot.

Sid did grow on me as the movie went on, mostly because of how much he clearly loved the kid, but it’s a really terrible start for a character when the first memorable thing they do is stomp through the food of two innocent rhinos as he tries to scrape shit from his feet. He even eats the last dandelion, which was supposed to be a nice little special treat for them.

The CGI and animation has certainly not aged well, especially in regards to the humans. The animals are passable, especially Manny and Scrat, but Sid’s design is all sorts of fugly.

The voice acting is pretty good. There’s not a whole lot of emotion to be had here. I appreciate that the humans didn’t talk most of the time and, when they did, we couldn’t understand them. I don’t know if that was for the sake of the main characters being animals, so, since they can’t understand them, neither can we, or they’re adhering to the fact that English and most other languages hadn’t been created at that point.

The music is okay. At least they didn’t load the movie up with pop songs or anything. Most of the music is a traditional score with only one lyrical song, Send Me On My Way by Rusted Root, being present.

Bottomline: Ice Age was a pleasant surprise. It wasn’t knocking my socks off or anything, but it was a fun and touching story that I’m sure kids and adults alike would be able to enjoy. The art and animation are certainly dated, but outside of some freaky shots of the human characters, it’s nothing too bad.

Recommended Audience: There are some light poop jokes and mentions of killing. Even though we see Manny’s family get killed, it’s done in a cave painting animation (which is pretty cool) and the death is never seen or heard. The animation ends once we see the hunters above them holding up rocks. There are two deaths that occur in real time, but one just has her vanishing in the water, and the other is off-screen (impaled by falling icicles.) There is absolutely no blood in this movie, even when we saw Diego with his supposedly horrible life-threatening wound from a zoomed out shot. 6+


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