DVD Review: Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas

Ever since Scrat the sabertooth squirrel started his quest for the acorn in the early 2000s, I’ve been a fan of the Ice Age universe. Sure, maybe Manny, Sid, and Diego are slowly inching towards extinction, but more often than not they show that animated films can be both commercial, kid-friendly, and still appeal to parents who are still young-at-heart.

That said, I was disappointed this year when we somehow managed to miss recording Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas which aired around Thanksgiving. I wanted to see if the momentum of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs with its whole Land of the Lost/Journey to the Center of the Earth vibe would spill over into a Christmas special. Now that I’ve seen the special on DVD, I’m happy to say that it was actually quite original and fun!

It starts out with mammoths Manny (Ray Romano) and Ellie (Queen Latifah) literally rolling out the decorations for Christmas (somewhat ironically considering how odd it would be to have Christmas before the birth of Christ, but let’s let that go) – including a large boulder that’s been handed down generation to generation in Manny’s family. When Sid (John Leguizamo) the sloth and Diego (Denis Leary) the sabertooth tiger get involved in a discussion about the stone’s merits, Sid manages to destroy it while testing its durability. This didn’t make Manny happy at all and in his frustration he convinces Sid that he’s on Santa’s “Naughty List.”

Well, this upsets Manny and Ellie’s daughter Peaches (Ciara Bravo) so much, she sets off to head to the North Pole to convince Santa to remove Sid from the Naughty List. Of course, Peaches and Sid aren’t alone in this quest and are joined by the possum brothers Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Along the way, they get a bit lost and stumble across a new friend named Prancer (T.J. Miller) who just happens to be a flying reindeer. This odd group makes their way to Santa’s workshop, guarded by an army of tiny sloths.

Do they find Santa? Do Manny, Ellie, and Diego join the party? Yes to both questions. Of course, they manage to destroy and rebuild Santa’s Workshop and find a way to save Christmas for kids all around the world thanks to Prancer and his flying family. Ultimately I think the message is that no matter what happens, anything is possible if you work together towards a common goal and don’t give up.

Plus, having an Ice Age holiday special serves as a reminder of the new movie due out next summer – Ice Age: Continental Drift arrives in theaters in July 2012!

In an age where the stop-motion puppetry of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials are looking a little long in the tooth, I’m glad to see new specials appearing on the docket like the Prep and Landing, Shrek the Halls, and now Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas. I think this one will fit nicely into our holiday TV traditions from now on!

This article first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.

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Trailer Time: Ice Age 4: Continental Drift – Teaser

Hi again…

Some days you just need a little Scrat time. That’s right, the prehistoric saber-toothed squirrel is back providing a glimpse of the next Ice Age movie from Blue Sky Studios. Ice Age 4: Continental Drift is slated to hit theaters in July 2012. It’ll be a long eighteen months!

Scrat is after his favorite thing in the whole world – the acorn – once again. And this time he goes all the way to the center of the Earth! Of course that can’t go well!

Here’s the teaser… Enjoy!

–Fitz

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DVD Review: Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs + the Scrat Pack

Hi there!

The Ice Age movie series started back in 2002 with the first movie by Blue Sky Studios. It featured Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the Sabertooth Tiger (Denis Leary) trying to survive and evade the coming ice age. As Sid is often fond of saying, they are the world’s weirdest herd. Also included were the continuing misadventures of Scrat, a sabertoothed squirrel, and his attempts to find all the acorns.

In 2006, the series continued with Ice Age: The Meltdown. The herd continues to get weirder as they encounter Ellie (Queen Latifah), another mammoth, and her two “brothers” – opossums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Ellie was adopted by the opossums and just came to believe she was one, as she had never encountered another mammoth before meeting Manny. Sid meanwhile is kidnapped by a tribe of mini-sloths who believe him to be a god, which doesn’t turn out well. And we discover that Diego is afraid of water. Scrat makes another appearance in The Meltdown, chasing down his acorn, fighting off giant piranha, and generally having a miserable time.

And in the summer of 2009, we saw the third sequel called Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Now Ellie and Manny are a couple expecting a baby mammoth any day now and Diego and Sid are wondering where they fit into the equation. Scrat is back as well, but he finds a new challenger who wants his acorn – Scratte. Who wins that battle? The acorn of course!

In Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Sid discovers three eggs he finds in a cave. He calls them Eggbert, Shelly, and Yoko and draws a face on each. Though told to put them back by Manny, Sid keeps them and they hatch the next morning into baby Tyrannosaurus who think Sid is their mother. Unfortunately, the babies’ real mother goes looking for her eggs and herds her new hatchlings and Sid down into a huge underground world filled with prehistoric beasties.

Manny, the pregnant Ellie, Diego, Crash, and Eddie all head into the caves to find and rescue Sid. Once in the dinosaur paradise, they’re helped by Buck (Simon Pegg), a one-eyed weasel living a life of adventure in this hidden prehistoric world. Buck is a bit off his rocker, but knows his way around many of the dangers facing Sid’s would-be-rescuers and proves very resourceful despite his obvious lunatic nature.

Honestly, when we saw Dawn of the Dinosaurs in the theater I was sure that I liked this movie better than The Meltdown. There’s a magical spark when you see these characters fighting to stay a family amidst all odds. And after seeing the film again on DVD, I still think this was better than the second sequel. The perils faced by the “herd” led each character to face their own fears and triumph to save their friends. I can hardly think of a better message than that for the young audiences the movie was meant for.

The “Scrat Pack” also included a second DVD with 11 short features about Scrat and a few DVD-ROM activities.

As huge fans of Scrat, we really were looking forward to the features we hadn’t seen. The two Scrat short films – “Gone Nutty – Scrat’s Missing Adventure” and “No Time For Nuts” were both hilarious, pitting the insane prehistoric rodent against his nemesis, the ever-present acorn. In “Gone Nutty,” we see what happens when Scrat has too much of a good thing and loses his acorn supply. The freefall segment with Scrat and the falling acorns is just brilliant. And in “No Time for Nuts,” Scrat and the acorn go on an adventure through time and space with a device resembling something from a Jules Verne novel. As always, things don’t go well for Scrat as he bounces through various periods in history.

We also liked “Falling for Scratte,” which focused on the development of the Scatte character and how they found the voice among the talent in their own crew. The interview with Pegg about Buck, “Buck: From Easel to Weasel,” was also entertaining as they discussed how they ended up with Buck as a character. And learning how to draw Scrat in “Scrat: From Head to Toe” was great. I’m sure my eldest daughter, an aspiring artist, will be drawing the little nutty critter in no time.

Some of the rest of the Scrat shorts on the DVD however fell a bit flat. But the fake news reports like “Scrat: Breaking Story” and “Scrat: News Report” tried very hard to be funny. Scrat just doesn’t really belong in newsreel-type footage.

All in all, I have to say I really enjoyed Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and I hope that Manny, Sid, and Diego come back for future episodes of their continuing saga. Who knows? Maybe Diego or Sid will find love in the next movie? Be sure to look for Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – The Scrat Pack at your favorite retailer today!

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this and other Ice Age movies below!

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