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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

A 1940 comedy that’s still fresh

July 19, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (Rated PG for violence, peril, tense family material)

Sometimes I think there is more time spent on the sub-titles of sequel flicks than on their plots which, for the most part are in a downward slide into mediocrity and generally more of the same.

I also wonder how many sequels it takes before even the least fussy audiences begin to tire of the lack of originality.

In this case, this fourth in the animated series of critters trying to survive the ice age might discourage the making of a fifth. Even the tiny tots, who thrive on repetition, have responded by making tracks to and from the junk food counters - either that, or illuminating the theatre with their ubiquitous electronic gadgets.

The 95-minute movie begins with its winning character, the mischievous squirrel Scrat, still in pursuit of his ever unattainable acorn; then after ripping off bits from everything from "Braveheart" and "Return of the Jedi" to "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Abyss," the movie proceeds to follow the same formula of the earlier flicks.

In his pursuit for his ever evading nut, Scratt causes a disastrous world event; the team of woolly mammoth Manny, sloth Sid and sabre-tooth cat Diego are separated; a few fresh new characters are introduced to flesh out something slightly original.

Some of the sequences are amusing, but most of the time there is little here to bring the movie up to Pixar level and certainly not worth wasting beaucoup d'argent on. (Grade: C-)

To rent instead:

One of the top Screwball Comedies of the pre-WWII decade: THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940, 115-minutes).

It was a bad time for Katharine Hepburn, whose star power was on the wane. She needed something clever and vivacious, a romantic comedy that would bring her back to her fold.

Phillip Barry wrote a script for a Broadway show starring her; it was so successful that MGM snapped it up with Hepburn once again in the lead, and with Cary Grant, James Stewart, and a host of fine MGM actors; and directed by George Cukor, who thrives on romantic comedies.

Well, how could it lose? It didn't. In fact it broke box-office records, gave the actress her well-needed lift, won a couple of Oscars (for Stewart and script), and has remained high in the annals of screwball comedies ever since.

Screwball comedies? They worked well during the Great Depression to draw people into the dark for a couple of hours with a 10-cent ticket, to watch the normally enviable rich and famous make fools of themselves for our edification.

"My Man Godfrey," for example, about a very rich man posing as a vagrant, getting hired to become butler in one of those silly aristocratic families, proves that money isn't everything.

In the Philadelphia Story, we have Hepburn as a divorcee, about to remarry, this time to a dullard hardly up to her class. Former hubby (Grant) returns to recapture her, while a newspaper reporter for a gossip rag (Stewart) slips into the family mansion and starts a ball rolling that leads right to where we all knew it would from the beginning.

The pace is swift, the MGM sets & costumes are opulent, the cast fits perfectly, and the dialog is rich high comedy. ("They're like Damian & Pythias" - "No, Grant & Lee.")

Take my word for it; a comedy like this, still as bright and fresh as ever, will make your day!



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