Review: ‘Ice Age: The Meltdown’

Lookie! All your old favorites are back (with a few new friends) for a whole new adventure. Well, an outing. Okay, a long walk, but it’s a family-friendly walk, okay?

In the shortest ice age known to man, Manny the Mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), and Diego the Sabertooth Tiger (Denis Leary) have inexplicably survived long enough to migrate into a bowl-shaped valley. Unfortunately, the ice walls holding back a reservoir that could flood the valley to the top (and drown every land creature inside when it happens) is melting, and the guys have three days to cross the valley and take refuge in a boat to survive. On the way, Manny finds love (voiced by Queen Latifah), Sid finds worshippers, and Diego is upstaged by two prehistoric possums named Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck).

Well, at least the “Scrat” is back for scene transitions, which I could easily watch all day. Otherwise, the above plot really is an excuse to milk these characters for another round, and, well, for Fox Animation to show how much better they can make all this look. In fact, the periodic flashbacks to the decaying ice wall slowly dying are the high point of the film; there’s more tension watching pieces of the wall splinter and crack than in every other character combined. Honestly, someone should cut the budget and rework Ice Age into a Saturday morning feature; the plots aren’t the stuff of ninety minute films but would fit quite nicely into a half-hour show.

Take for example the show-stopping presentation of “Food! Wonderful Food!” as scores of vultures answer Sid’s burning question, “I wonder what they’re thinking about.” You can easily imagine the studio design meeting of writers and creators trying to figure out how to milk their concept one or more films going forward. Of course, the most underused character is the best part of both films: Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel still trying to get his nut. His sequences steal the show but are again stuck as merely scene transition in the stricktest vaudevillian sense.

There’s plenty to see and watch to waste ninety minutes, but after ten installments of The Land Before Time, how many more ways can we keep putting dinosaurs (even little ones) into danger? Denis Leary’s tiger barely has a part left after making way for all the “new” things introduced. For my money, the original Ice Age had more thought, more heart, and far more danger for the adventure of the entire thing, but will easily fit the bill as long as all you’re expecting is merely more of the same… and Scrat getting pummelled along the way.

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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