New releases: 'Ice Age': just the tip of the iceberg
By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic
© St. Petersburg Times
published November 28, 2002
[Twentieth Century Fox]
Denis Leary voices Diego, the saber-toothed tiger, John Leguizamo is Sid the sloth and Ray Romano is Manfred the woolly mammoth in Ice Age.
Ice Age (PG)
During the chilly era of the title, a woolly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), a smart aleck sloth (John Leguizamo) and a saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) discover a lost human child and embark upon a quest to find his parents. Produced by Fox Animation Studios to challenge Disney's cornering of the animation market.
First impressions: "Ice Age isn't a bad animated movie, but it's missing the intangible magic that Disney cast on screen for decades and DreamWorks is now perfecting for itself. It's a reasonable facsimile of the toy stories and fractured fairy tales that captivated audiences in recent years, yet never quite becomes something viewers would want to see over and over again."
Second thoughts: A surprising springtime hit, but it left me frosty.
Rental audience: Easy-to-please children.
Rent it if you enjoy: Shrek, Chicken Run.
Men in Black II (PG-13)
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as agents J and K, patrolling Earth for illegal extraterrestrials. This time, director Barry Sonnenfeld reverses their motivations, with J as the hip, established alien-buster and K restoring his Neuralizer-zapped memory of his former occupation. They're on the trail of a shape-shifting creature (mostly seen as Lara Flynn Boyle) threatening humans.
First impressions: "Men in Black II contains more of everything that made the original 1997 film a blockbuster, crammed into a shorter running time and therefore less effective. Barry Sonnenfeld's film is a colorful blur, the cinematic equivalent of those Neuralizers used by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to erase innocent bystanders' memories of alien attacks. Moviegoers watch, laugh a little, then forget why they were so amused."
Second thoughts: Have you ever seen a movie make so much money and so few friends?
Rental audience: People who haven't yet learned that sequels are usually inferior products.
Rent it if you enjoy: More of the same old thing.
A heavyweight boxing champion (Ving Rhames) is sent to prison on a trumped-up sexual assault charge, then challenges the nastiest convict (Wesley Snipes) for respect. Peter Falk co-stars as the crusty lifer who turns their showdown into a bettors payday. Directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors, Hard Times) with his usual violent panache.
First impressions: "(The movie) feels like one long, unrelenting brawl. It's a bona fide guilty pleasure, aimed squarely at male audiences. The story is compelling enough, but a viewer might feel a little uncomfortable about being invigorated by the spectacle of so much fist-on-face punching, complete with bone-crunching sound effects."
Second thoughts: This one got knocked out of theaters and onto home video in only three months.
Rental audience: Rhames and Snipes fans only.
Rent it if you enjoy: Toughman competitions.
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