Directed by Chris Wedge and Carlos Saldanha starring the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary and Goran Visnjic.

A long time ago on a glacier far far away... As all the animals get ready for the big chill, hungry schemer Sid the Sloth (Leguizamo) is saved from an up close and personal encounter with two rhinos by curmudgeonly mammoth Manfred (Romano). Reckoning that he has a better chance of seeing sunnier days if he's with some muscle, Sid becomes Manfred's sidekick but finds the mammoth's reaction is colder than the terrain they're trekking through. What breaks the ice between them is the discovery of a baby, separated from her clan and whom Sid and Manfred pledge to return to the rest of the "pinklings". Along the way they hook up with Diego (Leary), a vengeful sabretooth who says that he'll show the not so dynamic duo where the humans are but is really leading Sid and Manfred to a trap.

With animated movies these days it's a case of survival of the funniest, but with its mix of slapstick and sentiment 'Ice Age' still has plenty to offer. Essentially a buddy movie with fur, directors Wedge and Saldanha make up for the often slow script through the charms of the central characters ('Three Mammals and a Baby'?), Leguizamo on top form as the little loser with the big heart.

The directors and writing team also deserve lots of nods for managing to weave an eco message into the comedy of opposites trying to get along. There are some insightful scenes which question man's responsibility to other creatures and the story of why Manfred is so miserable is brilliantly handled through a series of drawings the characters discover on a cave wall.

Released just too late to make the Oscars, 'Ice Age' is an early runner for next year's shortlist. It may occasionally plod like Manfred and lack the amount of knowing humour of 'Shrek' and 'Monsters: Inc', but after watching it you'll be warmed up enough to go see the sequel.

Harry Guerin