I just saw Ice Age on DVD last night. It was my first time seeing it since its theatrical release in 2002. I remember enjoying it then, but there was a lot I forgot and a lot of new things I think I noticed this time around. The thing I remember enjoying about it in 2002 is its cartooniness. It has a goofy playfulness I love that hearkens back to those Saturday mornings, savoring every second I could of Bugs Bunny and Daffy. It’s character-driven comedy, most of it physical. Some of that is pure slapstick (guy-steps-on-a-rake kind of thing) which isn’t too specific to the character, but the majority of it is derived from and defines/reveals the character in its unique circumstance. Though the comedy may be physical, it’s really telling us something about the mind of that character — something funny.
Which character am I thinking of in particular? Sid, of course! The sloth (pictured above) so geniusly voiced by John Leguizamo. He’s the star of the picture. Not only is he the primary source of comedy in the film, he’s the one driving the whole story forward. What a goldmine of a character. He’s the most manic sloth you could ever imagine, which gets a tad annoying at times, I’ll admit, but heck that’s one of his key character traits. He’s incredibly annoying. The thing is he’s just so funny and endearing while he’s being annoying that we tend to forgive him for it. Also, thank goodness, he is tempered by the cool and down-beat qualities of Manfred the Mammoth and Diego the Saber-toothed Tiger (voiced by Ray Romano and Denis Leary, respectively — wow, Denis Leary down-beat. Who knew?). Also, Sid starts to even seem a bit normal set against the character and running gag of impossibly-manic Scrat the Saber-toothed Squirrel (voiced by the film’s director, Chris Wedge), who is thankfully used just as a sort of seasoning, appearing only for brief periods throughout the film (and making it all the more hilarious).
Leguizamo is so terrific in this role as Sid the Sloth. He seems to really understand what it means to act for a cartoon and the animators really eat it up! I can’t remember what scene it was, but there was this one awkward kind of nervous laugh he does that had me cracking up. There’s so much in the sound of that laugh alone and the subtle little head and eye movement the animator provided are just the perfect micro-storm example of the kind of collaborative performance you can find in animation. Mo-cap has nothing on this stuff! I mean, this is magic. This is the power of raw imagination and talent and a lot of hard work! It’s a joy to watch.