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Ice Age: The Meltdown’ a subpar letdown

Erin McGinn | Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Watching movie sequels is like playing the lottery. Chances are slim that you will actually win big, and, more often than not, it is just a waste of time and money. “Ice Age: The Meltdown” is like winning $25 on a scratch-off card – it’s more than expected, but less than hoped for.

The original Oscar-nominated “Ice Age” (2002) was a breakaway hit and definitely served as proper competition for Pixar and Dreamworks films. “Ice Age: The Meltdown” is not going to be nearly as successful as its predecessor, but still has its entertaining moments. The basic premise (highly-endangered pre-historic animals try to escape certain disaster) is heavily borrowed – “Land Before Time” anyone? – but since the only dinosaurs in “The Meltdown” are predators, it manages to avoid too much comparison to other franchises.

“Ice Age: The Meltdown” takes place a few years after the original (the millennia needed for global change are ignored here) and maintains the same cast: Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the sabre-toothed tiger (Denis Leary). When the nearby glacier begins melting – thanks to Scrat, the crazy squirrel – the animals are forced to flee, encountering peril and adventure. Along the way they meet the female mammoth Ellie (Queen Latifah), who believes that she is a possum, and her two possum “brothers” Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Overall, the vocal performances are good. While Queen Latifah, Romano and Leguizamo all seem to be enjoying themselves, Leary appears to be less involved in the movie – but Diego was given less of the zinging one-liners, so it’s not entirely his fault.

Unlike the environmentally-aware “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992), “Meltdown” never really addresses global warming or other relevant issues. Aside from not being scientifically accurate – as demonstrated by the speeding up of the meltdown – there are the obvious biblical references, like the animals looking to get on a giant wooden boat to escape the flood. There’s also a scene with Scrat entering a pearly-gated heaven of golden acorns. But since the movie is not entirely biblically oriented, these references are confusing and do not benefit the film.

“The Meltdown” is not all bad or questionable, however – it does have many enjoyable moments. In one scene, the vultures, excited about the impending doom (and thus lots of food for them), perform the song “Food, Glorious Food” from the musical “Oliver!” in a truly entertaining number.

There’s also Scrat. The highlight of the first film, he continues to be the most exciting element of the sequel. He not only “causes” the meltdown but he also “fixes” it at the end. He was employed a great deal more in this film than he was in the first one. If a third film is made, Scrat can be expected to dominate the movie, as he is by far the most memorable and truly enjoyable character. He is also proof that filmmakers do not need raunchy playground humor in order to win laughs – something the writers should take note of, since that lower form of humor was all-too-present in “The Meltdown.”

Unless you really enjoyed the original “Ice Age” or are a fan of any animated movie regardless of quality, then you should not see this movie. But if you are forced to take a younger sibling over Easter break, don’t worry – because Scrat is your $25 win in the lottery.