The world was a very different place 20 000 years ago. Humans and animals survived off each other and the land in a fend-for-themselves world; the chances of two species coming together for any purpose other than the hunt was unlikely. Thus the camaraderie between Manfred the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano) Sid the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) and Diego the Saber-Tooth Tiger (voiced by Denis Leary) sounds odd but it proves it's possible to stumble upon future lifelong friends in the most improbable ways. In this case it's the caretaking of a human baby. When the baby washes up on the shore of a riverbank the three strangers become begrudging partners as they try to return the babe to its human family for their own reasons: Manny because he lacks a family of his own Sid out of the kindness of his heart and Diego to avenge his pride. The trek isn't easy of course; there are ice caves to navigate lava pits to jump over and secrets to unearth about each of them.
It doesn't take long to recognize comedian Ray Romano's voice as Manny. Although the screenplay credits belong to Michael Berg Michael J. Wilson and Peter Ackerman Romano really adopts the subtle jokes as his own. Admittedly it took a while to forget about Romano and realize there was a woolly mammoth on the screen. John Leguizamo's Sid though is by far the star of the show. His lisp and "slothful" way of speaking captures the kind of goofy talk kids love. Denis Leary gives Diego a strong and soothing voice one caught between loyalty to tradition and newfound friendship. Director Chris Wedge puts his voice to work too through the no-so-dialogue-intensive squirrel Scrat (and a few other minor characters) the acorn-chasing entrée act. His voice perfectly matches the squirrel's quick and erratic behavior.
Director Chris Wedge equally distributes the time spent on character development and the setting-up of family unit boundaries within a pack. Manny's naturally monstrous proportions make him the ultimate father figure and protector while his slow yet constant demeanor also makes him the decision maker and mediator. Also a parental figure Diego's inborn reflexes and hunting senses help him to be the better tracker of the group navigating the threesome and their tiny charge along the humans' path. Sid's long hook-like claws help him adapt to the ice-laden landscape skating across frozen lakes with ease but his small size and lack of maturity make him more an older brother to the baby than a parent. The major drawback to this familial cycle of life however is that it's unusually male dominated. Only four females appear in the entire script and each very briefly: one is the baby's mother one is the last known female dodo bird and the other two are skanky sloths whom Sid tries to scam in a mud bath.
Welcome to the world of klutzy assistant veterinarian Corky Romano (Kattan) who loves bad '80s music and is by nature a cheery fellow. However he is also the son of an organized crime family who was kicked out long ago for not fitting in. Hmm wonder why? When the family including "Pops" Romano (Peter Falk) and his two dysfunctional sons Peter (Peter Berg) and Paulie (Chris Penn) come under FBI investigation they convince Corky to go undercover and join the FBI to disrupt the case. Corky becomes the darling of the bureau through no fault of his own which irks its resident jerk (Matthew Glave) who loathes Corky from the start. Seems Corky's bogus FBI résumé has been beefed up to enable him to gain access to his father's case file. It all ends predictably happy.
Saturday Night Live's Kattan is at his best when going out on the comedy limb and as Corky he climbs out with élan rather than dropping with a sickening thud. Corky is a fun character infused with that manic energy Kattan displays so well in his SNL personas. He is very close to being able to carry this film. But alas this isn't quite the role that could establish him as a leading man. Veteran Falk who has about one moment where he is really funny and Fred Ward who plays the family's right-hand man are the only other actors of Kattan's caliber in the film and their characters seem to have been watered down to allow Kattan to shine. The other performances while serviceable fall right into cardboard cutouts especially those in the FBI. Clearly the casting was done with an eye on keeping the audience squarely focused on star Kattan. in star focus.
Unfortunately keeping Kattan in the forefront is also one of the main problems with the film. It was nice watching all the comic's antics laughing our butts off as he jerks his way down the aisle after inhaling a bunch of cocaine but couldn't we have had a good story to go along with it? Here the story exists exclusively to provide setups for Kattan's gags. Do we have to see a bunch of FBI agents make fools of themselves again? The film seems to follow the same route other SNL stars have taken recently focusing on the comedian rather than the film as a whole. At least Corky is not based on one of Kattan's SNL characters. Will Ferrell seems to be one of the only SNL members to have mostly steered clear of any star-making opportunities seemingly satisfied with playing really funny supporting characters (not counting A Night at the Roxbury). Maybe Kattan would be better served following the lead of his good friend.
CNN CAUGHT IN ANOTHER TAILWIND?
Rekindling memories of CNN's Operation Tailwind fiasco three years ago, the CIA has issued a statement saying that Kenneth Bucchi, who was identified as a former CIA agent by the cable network during two appearances on Monday, never worked for the agency in any capacity and that his comments on the air about being involved in CIA activities involving Columbia drug lords were "utter nonsense" and "complete fiction." Reporting on the apparent hoax, the Washington Post said Thursday that Bucchi had been discharged from the Air Force after being labeled as delusional and quoted Bucchi as saying that he had been "framed" by the Air Force during his ouster. Bucchi also reportedly acknowledged that he could not prove that he had worked for the CIA but did concede that he had never been paid by the agency. A CNN anchor read a statement by the CIA about the matter Wednesday but did not retract the story or apologize, the Post said.
WHICH SURVIVOR WILL BE THE WEAKEST LINK?
CBS announced plans Wednesday to milk yet another Survivor episode from its current Outback series for the May sweeps. The one-hour show, set to air 8 p.m. May 10, will follow the 16 contestants as they return home and, from 8:30-9 p.m.will go head-to-head against a half-hour special episode of The Missing Link, which will be featuring several of the original Survivor contestants struggling to withstand the verbal scaldings of host Anne Robinson. Meanwhile, Pax TV announced Wednesday that beginning June 1 it will air repeats of Weakest Link on Fridays, just days after the original telecast on NBC on Mondays.
"TODAY"'S HIT AND RUN
Seeming to invite criticism for emulating the very thing it was scrutinizing, NBC's The Today Show on Wednesday showed a video six times of a 16-year-old boy being hit by a car as he was allegedly attempting to mimic a stunt on the MTV showJackass. The Independence, Kan., teenager suffered numerous injuries including a broken leg. During the broadcast, Garry Edmonson, the local D.A., said that his office was considering filing charges against MTV. "Certainly they are morally culpable," he remarked. For its part, MTV said that it was "incredibly upsetting" to learn of such incidents but that MTV repeatedly has warned viewers not to attempt the dangerous stunts depicted on the show. It also noted that it had never shown a stunt on Jackass similar to the one involving the injured Kentucky boy.
"NEW YORK TIMES" PUTS TV ON HOLD
Representing a blow to the New York Times' ambition to become a force in nightly television news, the paper has been forced to shelve plans to produce an 11:00 p.m. PBS newscast, published reports said Thursday. According to the reports, the newscast, which was to have been called National Edition, has been unable to find $12 million in corporate underwriting to launch the telecast, which was to have been produced with MacNeil-Lehrer Productions.
"60 MINUTES" CHIEF NOW FAVORS TELEVISED EXECUTION
60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, who once voiced opposition to the televising of executions, now says he has changed his mind and is in favor of televising the May 16 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. "You put a guy on a gurney and stick a needle in his arm. People watch that on E.R. every week," Hewitt remarked in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "What's the big deal? He goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. It doesn't seem so terrible to me." Reminded that in 1997 he said of televising McVeigh's execution, "That hungry for ratings, I'm not. ... It's in terrible taste," Hewitt replied, "I'm mush. I change on a lot of things." 60 Minutes is planning to repeat Ed Bradley's March 2000 interview with McVeigh, the only television interview with him.
WILL ACTRESS-ANCHOR MAKE IT AT CNN?
An Albuquerque, NM TV news director has sniffed at Wednesday's report that former NYPD Blue costar Andrea Thompson had been hired as an anchor and reporter for the CNN Headline News channel. Chris Berg, who heads the news department at KOB-TV, suggested that Thompson, who has worked at rival KRQE since leaving Blue, posed no competition. "I think working in Albuquerque is out of her league," he told the Albuquerque Journal. "Yes, I think she has improved as a news reporter, but she's still not good enough to work at our station." Readers of the Journal seemed to agree. In a poll conducted on the newspaper's Web site, 64 percent of the respondents answered "No" to the question, "Is KRQE-TV reporter/former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson ready for CNN?"
KATHIE LEE SAYS SHE'S HAD TALKS ABOUT REPLACING ROSIE
Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday confirmed that she had had "preliminary talks" about replacing Rosie O'Donnell on Donnell's syndicated talk show beginning next June. During a conference call, Gifford said that the talks were "nothing serious, and I don't know. ... To commit to something longterm, I would be throwing myself right back in that same frying pan."
CALLS MOUNT FOR BBC CHIEF TO STEP DOWN
Word that BBC Chairman Christopher Bland has been appointed chairman of British Telecom has sparked demands that Bland relinquish his job at the publicly funded broadcasting corporation. Norman Baker, a spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party, told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "Sir Christopher Bland can't possibly do two jobs at once. He cannot give the BBC his full attention if he believes the job is that part-time. ... There is a clear conflict of interest."
NO MOVIES, NO INTERVIEWS?
If an actors' strike materializes this year, not only will TV and film studios be hard hit, but so will entertainment publications and TV shows whose stock-in-trade is running interviews with celebrities who are plugging their latest projects, the Los Angeles Times observed Thursday. Entertainment attorney Tom Hansen told the newspaper that despite actors' contractual obligations to studios to promote their films or television shows, "the union collective bargaining agreement will always trump the individual actor's agreement. ... If the guild says you cannot render publicity services, you will not be in violation of your contract."
MGM: BIG HITS, BUT BIG LOSSES
Despite back-to-back hits with Hannibal and Heartbreakers, MGM on Wednesday reported a net loss of $399.8 million in the first quarter. It attributed the result to accounting rules changes, noting that operating income (EBITDA) soared to $12.6 million from $5.2 million during the same period a year ago. In a statement, MGM Chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian commented, "MGM's first-quarter performance was a great start to what promises to be another strong year in 2001." The studio plans to release 20 films this year versus seven in 2000.
TRADE PAPER REPORTER QUITS AFTER HIS STORY IS QUASHED
Entertainment labor and legal reporter David Robb has quit the Hollywood Reporter after the trade paper's publisher, Robert Dowling, blocked a story that he had written concerning Reporter gossip columnist George Christy, the online media magazine Inside reported Wednesday. The story reportedly concerned an investigation by the Screen Actors Guild to determine whether Christy actually worked in numerous films and TV shows for which he had received acting credits since 1985. Those credits, Inside maintained, allowed Christy to qualify for benefits under the guild's health and pension plan. According to Inside, Dowling spiked the story over the objection of editor Anita Busch. It quoted Robb as saying that Dowling "reassigned" the story to another reporter. None of the principals in the dispute except Robb responded to Inside's requests for comment.
COLUMNIST ATTESTS "TOWN & COUNTRY" IS AS BAD AS FEARED
Syndicated columnist Liz Smith has confirmed many movie writers' speculation that Town and Country, the costly and long-delayed comedy starring Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling, is a disaster. Saying that she had seen the film this week -- most critics viewed it Wednesday night -- Smith concludes that "it is one of the most chaotic and puerile movies ever made, full of tasteless adultery and some downright offensive vulgarity." As for the top-flight cast, Smith remarks: "It is awful to see talented stars without a clue as to who they are supposed to be portraying or what they are supposed to be doing." (A digest of other reviews of the movie will be included in tomorrow's edition.)
BUSH WATCHING BOWDLERIZED VERSIONS OF MOVIES
President George W. Bush has ordered that scenes of graphic sex and violence be cut from movies shown on Air Force One flights, the British Web site Ananova reported Thursday, citing reporters traveling with the president. It was not clear from the report who was assigned to the bowdlerization of the films, nor what guidelines for cuts had been set. Ananova observed that Bill Clinton always ran the uncut versions of films on the presidential plane and at the White House, even those "that Mr. Clinton regularly condemned when he was talking up family values."