''Ice Age'' should freeze out ''Showtime.'' Animated critters have a broader fan base than even Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro, says Dave Karger
Ice Age
Credit: Ice Age: © 20th Century Fox

Think the Oscar race is tight this year? Wait till you see this weekend’s box office showdown.

The much anticipated Fox computer-animated film ”Ice Age” and the new Eddie Murphy/Robert De Niro comedy ”Showtime” both open wide, and guessing the week’s winner is about as easy as figuring out whether Denzel Washington or Russell Crowe will bring home an Oscar March 24.

In ”Ice Age”’s favor is a strong family-friendly format (just look at the success of computer-animated flicks like ”Shrek,” ”Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” and ”Monsters, Inc.”) and the fun voice cast of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary. The trailers for the film are brilliant, and the movie will aim to please kids and parents alike.

”Showtime,” meanwhile, has the bigger stars (Murphy’s last movie, ”Dr. Dolittle 2,” opened with $25 million, while De Niro has seen his largest debuts come from comedies like ”Meet the Parents”). Plus, its PG-13 rating won’t limit its box office potential by blocking out some teens. Both ”Ice Age” and ”Showtime” stand to gross about $20 million this weekend. Perhaps ”Ice” will prove a bit, um, cooler and emerge on top.

The race for third place will also be intense, as last week’s champ ”The Time Machine” will face off against new horror entry ”Resident Evil,” starring hottie Milla Jovovich and a bunch of zombies. (Really, that’s all you need to know.) Considering ”Machine”’s poor reviews, the action flick stands to plummet about 45 percent to $12 million, which is same ”Evil” should bring in over the weekend.

One thing we know for sure, however: Mel Gibson will round out the top five with the third weekend of his Vietnam epic ”We Were Soldiers.” Another 30 percent drop would result in a $10 million weekend. Then we’ll put these showdowns to bed and focus on the bloody Oscar race.

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Ice Age
  • Movie
  • 75 minutes