“Ice Age” follows the path carved out by “Shrek” and “Monsters, Inc.” as well as the “Toy Story” films before them, but while it has stunning animation and a few brilliant moments of dialogue, it is lacking in the story department and seems to fall into the same tired patterns of “odd couple animal teams on a mission.” Without resorting to any hackneyed phrases like “Shrek on Ice,” let it be clear that “Ice Age” isn’t doing anything new.

The film takes place during a massive migration south during the most recent Ice Age. We immediately meet Manfred the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), who is headed north against the crowd (don’t ask). He soon meets another loner, voiced by John Leguizamo, Sid the Sloth (alliteration rules!), a buck-toothed, hysterical creature who is so annoying to those around him that he has been ditched by his family, which has already migrated. Sid and Manfred come upon a small, helpless human child, and the pair decides to return the child to the human “herd.” They are joined along the way by Diego the Sabertooth (Dennis Leary), who has an ulterior motive for helping them. He has been assigned by the treacherous Soto the Sabertooth (Goran Visnjic) to find the human baby and bring him back to satisfy Soto’s need for revenge against the humans, whose spears and hunting have ravaged the tiger population.

Visually, “Ice Age” is almost flawless, for in addition to the sweeping, glacier-filled landscapes and the photo-realistic backgrounds, the animals have life-like movements that contribute to their personalities as much as the voices do.

Unfortunately, the plot, unlike the ingenious “Toy Story” or “Monsters, Inc.,” doesn’t have the same originality as its computer-animated predecessors. It seems to take bits and pieces of plots and characters, stitching them together and placing them in a humorous setting.

John Leguizamo, an actor who has already proved his Lon Chaney-like versatility, is the real star in the film. His maniacal portrayal of the frantic, lisping Sid recalls visions of Sylvester the Cat and Daffy Duck. Leguizamo is able to craft a convincing character that makes you forget that it is just a guy in a booth doing a voice over. On the other hand, Ray Romano was simply miscast as Manfred. Despite his excellent comic timing and his sardonic delivery, the main thought that will run through your head is “Why the hell is that mammoth talking like Ray Romano?” His shrill, slightly whiny voice lends itself well to certain lines, like when he complains that Sid is “an embarrassment to nature, you know that?” Leary is decent as Diego, but his dialogue doesn’t take advantage of his strengths as a comedian. The other tigers, who include Tenacious D vocalist Jack Black and Diedrich Bader (the mulleted next door neighbor in “Office Space”) and some angry rhinos, Stephen Root and Cedric the Entertainer, are underused. Far too much time is spent on the sappy details of the interactions with the human baby. It’s quite a feat to be more Disney than Disney, but Ice Age surpasses all Pixar releases in its schmaltz index.

However, there are several sequences that make the movie enjoyable, including a run-in with a militaristic group of Dodos who, in an attempt to stockpile for the coming Ice Age, have secured a total of three melons. There is also a running gag, beginning and finishing the film, about a small squirrel/rat creature in a constant battle to bury his precious acorn. He is constantly thwarted in his attempts in Wile E. Coyote style disasters, including the opening sequence, in which his attempts to lodge the acorn in the glacier cause it to crack, causing the entire ice age.

As a kids movie, the film is a success, with a good mix of slapstick, conk-you-on-the-head humor and one-liners. But despite its excellent cast and a few outstanding moments, the film fails to work as a whole. Although older viewers will still enjoy it (parents, you can leave your books and pen lights at home), “Ice Age” lacks the subtlety and the intelligence that it deserves.

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