ICE AGE (**1/2)- a computer-animated film about three prehistoric animals trying to return a baby human to his parents. Itís set during the (duh) Ice Age, and is meant to be seen by young kids. As such, I didnít like it very much, even though I had heard a lot of good things about it before going to see it (I had a similar problem with ďShreckĒ). There are the obligitory animated-film archtypes: the wacky, hyperactive one (in this movie, ironically, a sloth), the stern, formiddable one with a tender heart (a mammoth), and the pure-evil villian one (a saber-toothed tiger). Most of the humor is geared toward the kids, meaning that thereís a ton of slapstick (and even a few poop-jokes), but a few scenes might make the adults in the audience chuckle as well (check out the ambigously gay duo of rhinoceroses, or, rhrinoceri, as I like to say). In all, I personally didnít enjoy this movie very much, but, then again, Iím not really the ďtarget audienceĒ either. Note: there was a younger kid in the audience, that I could see, and he seemed to be having a good time. So maybe Iím just a big stick in the mud.
IGBY GOES DOWN (***)-Burr Steers has the talent to someday become an excellent screen writer and an even more excellent director; presently, however, he is only half way there. Igby Goes Down is his premiere writing/directing effort, and though itís certainly not a bad movie, itís also very clear that itís his first movie. Like itís title character, Igby is too cocky and sure that itís cool to be much fun. The dialogue shows promise but is too often stilted and self-aware, positive that itís witty and poignant when itís not. Similarly, the cinematography is interesting and well done, but often feels show-offy or unnecessarily complicated (slow motion crowd scenes, shots through windows and peep holes). The one aspect of the film thatís solid across the board, however, is the acting. Iím not sure how since heís a relative unknown, but Steers has managed to wrangle together an extremely talented cast headed by Kieran Culkin (thatís right: Macaulyís little bro is going up fast!) and Claire Danes (thatís right: Sheís still alive!) as two privileged, misguided youths trying to make it on their own in New York City.
The story follows Igby (Caulkin), a spoiled, charismatic seventeen year old, throughout a chaotic year-or-so of his life in which he runs away from his mother (a wonderful, if not a bit melodramatic Susan Sarandon) and his straight laced older brother (Ryan Phillipe, hot on the tails of his smash hit 54Ö oh, waitÖ) to sell drugs, fall in love, and try to grow up sane. Imagine an updated, Americanized version of The 400 Blows and you'll get the idea (or, if you've never seen that, Catcher in the Rye meets Kids). The plot isnít too tough to follow, but none of the characters are very likeable so itís hard to care what happens to them. Overall, I canít heartily suggest Igby Goes Down, but I can say that Iíll be looking forward to Steersí next feature. Heís gotten his first film out of the way, Iím sure heís learned some things, and now he can go make a better one. Iíll be there to check it out when he does.
INDEPENDENCE DAY (**1/2)- I had forgotten how bad this movie was. See, I first saw it when it was out in theatres (1997, I think) and didn't give it another thought after that. Then today I was in the video store, and they didn't have "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" so I decided to rent this movie instead. The reason I didn't give it another thought after 1997 was because it wasn't very good. The writing is at a "fifth grade level", I would say, and the acting only a notch or two higher. If you haven't seen it, "Independence Day" is basically about evil aliens who come and try to destroy the Earth on the Fourth of July in giant flying saucers. The whole thing is contrived and predictable, but at least mildly amusing to watch. The guy who plays Jeff Goldbloom's father and the special effects are the two bright spots in this otherwise sub-par movie.