"The verge of extinction is no time to be picky."
Back in 2002, Blue Sky and 20th Century Fox released Ice Age, a fun CGI flick which was a story of three misfits who band together to save a human baby, and a small fuzzy creature that was desperately chasing an acorn. It was a hit, and now a mere four years later (a veritable Pleistocene epoch in movie time,) we get the sequel: Ice Age: The Meltdown. The question is, will this be a Toy Story 2 sequel, or a Cinderella 2 sequel?
Well, it's more of a Mulan II sequel. The story's a decent follow-up, the characters are still fun, and it's almost as good as the original, but doesn't quite match it.
The movie picks up an unspecified time after the last movie, but it's been long enough that yon ice is melting away. Our herd of Manny (Ray "Everyone Loves Me" Romano), Sid (John "Land of the Dead" Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis "Demolition Man" Leary) now live in a valley right next to a huge glacier with a number of prehistoric animals. The problem is that behind a dam of ice, the glacier is melting fast, and in three days, their little home will be about a mile underwater. So once again our heroes are in a race against the clock, but instead of cutting off humans at a pass before it closes to return a kid, they have to save enough animals to fill three arks. Talk about pressure.
The other drama comes from the fact that Manny may just be the last mammoth alive, until he runs into Ellie (Queen "Scary Movie 3" Latifah.) The problem is that Ellie doesn't think she's a mammoth. She's convinced that she is a possum. So Manny has to try to make her realize she's a mammoth, plus guide and protect Sid, Diego and all the other animals through the valley before it floods. A large task, even for a big mammoth. And that's not all the subplots in the movie! For a film that runs only 90 minutes, Ice Age: The Meltdown has enough side bits that could serve as the main plot for three lesser animated movies.
On the plus side, the movie has a lot of great character moments, good voice acting, a less Disney-esque story, excellent animation, several laugh-out-loud moments, an action-packed climax, and one fantastic musical number centered around singing and dancing vultures. Best of all, we get more Scrat! As in the first movie, every scene with this fuzzy rodent and the nut of his affections is pure gold.
Now, as Jason Myers pointed out in his review of the first Ice Age, writers and directors Carlos Saldanha & Chris Wedge know that great animated comedy comes from inflicting Warner Brothers style pain on our animal stars. Scrat and Sid bear the brunt of the physical humor, and watching them get dropped, slapped around, flung through the air (among other abuses heaped upon them) should make anyone laugh.
On the down side, the story feels a little uneven, with some of the scenes not flowing really well from one to the next, and the score could have been a little better (I miss the Rusted Root song from the original). So while Ice Age: The Meltdown is enjoyable, and well worth seeing, it's not as strong as the first movie. However, I think that most kids (and kids at heart) will have a great time watching our unlikely herd make their way through their latest adventure.
Now, anyone know where I can find a stuffed Scrat toy that I can put on my computer desk?