Film Reviews: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Voices by Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, and Queen Latifah. Directed by Carlos Saldanha. Written by Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow, and Jim Hecht. Rated PG.
Global Warming

Tepid to begin with, the Ice Age series goes into full Meltdown.


Honestly, were you waiting with bated breath for a sequel to Ice Age? I’ll go out on a limb and say no. The original came out four years ago and did fairly well at the box office, but it’s not like the internet was abuzz with fans clamoring for further prehistoric adventures of Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the saber-toothed tiger. Yet here’s another movie about them, made solely to rake in a few more dollars for the studio. The sad part is that the sequel, called Ice Age: The Meltdown, is so exhausted that you can’t think of any other reason for its existence.

The most distinctive thing about the first Ice Age movie was its look. The animators at 20th Century Fox wrought endless variations on the ice that surrounded the characters. Here, though, the ice is melting away, and the movie has to resort to boring backdrops of foliage and rocks. With global warming thawing everything out, Manny, Sid, and Diego (voiced by Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, and Denis Leary respectively) realize that the valley where they live will soon be flooded, and they proceed to evacuate with the rest of the animals. The big climactic flood is supposed to be the showpiece for the Fox animators, but they’re not nearly as good at rendering water. The stuff just looks wrong — it doesn’t shimmer the right way, it doesn’t flow convincingly, and it doesn’t seem to have any weight.

More grievously, the characters are played out, as is so often the case with sequels. The movie’s three screenwriters — none of whom worked on the first Ice Age — don’t find any new layers in Manny, Sid, or Diego. The additional new characters bring nothing to the table, either; they’re two possums (voiced by Seann William Scott and Josh Peck), and a female mammoth named Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) who was raised with them and thinks she herself is a possum as well. The filmmakers don’t squeeze many laughs out of this unpromising idea, and the romance between Manny and Ellie proves tiresome. They even bicker when all the characters are trying to keep from falling off a cliff. (Diego’s attitude is “now is not the time.” The writers should have listened to him.)

As with the original film, the funny bits here are all completely unrelated to the story. The squirrel from the first movie who’s on a never-ending quest for an acorn is given more comic business this time and remains a reliable source of laughs. There’s also an extended near-wordless interlude when Sid is kidnapped by a tribe of miniature sloths who worship him as a god; he gets to lead them in a quasi-musical number before the sloths try to sacrifice him in a lava pit. This is good stuff, but it’s no match for the many blind alleys that the movie leads you into. It’s high time for this Ice Age to end.

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