Ice Age: The Meltdown review by Mike Long

Have you ever had a meal where one of the side dishes was better than the main entree? (I recently had a serving of garlic broccoli which blew away the dijon chicken which it was accompanying.) I got this same feeling when I watched Ice Age, as I found one of the side stories to be far more interesting than the main action or characters. I suppose that consistency should be applauded, as I had the exact same reaction to the sequel, Ice Age: The Meltdown. While the main course wasn't necessarily bad, it was one of the side dishes which held my attention.

To recap, Ice Age followed the adventures of three animals; Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), a cantankerous mammoth who is a loner by nature; Diego (voiced by Denis Leary), a sabre-toothed tiger who can be vicious and doesn't like tomfoolery; and Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo), a bumbling sloth who isn't as smart as he thinks he is and is constantly trying to please everyone. In the film, this odd trio was attempting to not only escape the oncoming sheets of ice, but they were attempting to save a human baby as well.

Ice Age: The Meltdown picks up some time after the events of the first film. The ice age has come and the animals have adjusted to it. Sid is convinced that he's running a camp, despite the fact that the children in the area are constantly abusing him. Manny and Diego watch this in bemusement. However, the fun and games come to an end when Manny realizes that the glaciers which surround their pleasant valley are melting and will flood the area in a matter of days. So, the group, along with all of the other locals, head for the other end of the valley. Along the way, they meet Crash (voiced by Seann William Scott) and Eddie (voiced by Josh Peck), two rascally possums, and their sister, Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah). There's only one problem -- Ellie is really a mammoth. But, as she was raised by possums, she thinks she is a possum. Manny is delighted to see another mammoth (he was beginning to think that he was the last one), but he can't convince Ellie that she's like him. As this bizarre cluster of animals attempt to avoid the predators who are now stalking the valley, the inevitable flood looms ever closer.

I mentioned consistency before and Ice Age: The Meltdown is certainly the model of it. It's rare that a film and its sequel are so perfectly balanced, but everything that I liked and disliked about Ice Age is present in the second film. Unfortunately for both movies, the dislikes far outweigh the likes.

The fatal flaw in Ice Age: The Meltdown is definitely a big flaw: I don't like any of the characters. This truly hurts the movie. In the first film, we learn why Manny is angry, bitter, and stand-offish, but that doesn't mean that any of these personality traits are appealing. An attempt has been made to soften Manny in the sequel, but he's still difficult to identify with. Diego is the resident tough-guy. In the first movie, we weren't mean to like him for most of the film, as he was portrayed as a dangerous predator. The second film turns him into a character who is now reduced to making hollow threats. And then we have Sid. Sid is supposed to be the lovingly annoying character...except he only comes across as annoying. (The fact that Sid is truly ugly doesn't help.) Of the new characters, Ellie isn't very endearing, and Crash & Eddie grate on the viewer's nerves very quickly.

This prickly cast doesn't get any help from the film's weak story. Essentially, the movie is about a group of animals walking from one point to another. During that journey, the characters come across several different obstacles, from both other animals and the environment. Some of this is mildly interesting, but it's not until the finale that any true peril is felt. Otherwise the film feels tedious.

This brings us to the highlight of the Ice Age films, which is Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge), a sabre-toothed squirrel. In both films, Scrat appears in brief interludes throughout the movie, in which he's trying to retrieve a nut which is constantly evading him. The Scrat segments recall classic cartoons, such as the early Warner Bros. shorts, as the comedy relies solely on music, sound effects, and physical comedy. Scrat never talks, he only communicates in a series of squeaks and grunts, but the results are hilarious. When Scrat is on-screen, Ice Age: The Meltdown takes on a completely different tone, as these scenes are brilliantly done. If the entire film had been Scrat, then Ice Age: The Meltdown would have been a true classic.

Aside from Scrat, the other high point of Ice Age: The Meltdown is the animation. The Blue Sky crew does a great job of adding detail to the character's fur and the landscapes look great. It's just too bad that the characters border on repulsive and the story doesn't go anywhere. And because you demanded it, here's the true litmus test: my kids only watched about 30 minutes of this one. Next time, let's go full-on Scrat!

Ice Age: The Meltdown cools its heels on DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has come to DVD in two separate releases, one full-frame and the other widescreen. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen version was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image looks fantastic, as the picture is very sharp and clear. I'm not sure if this is a digital-to-digital transfer, but the image shows no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic, especially since most of the backgrounds are white or blue, and the reds and greens look great in front of them. I noticed some mild stuttering when the characters moved quickly, but otherwise the transfer looks fine. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. I've found that the sound gets watered-down on many family-film DVDs, but not here. There is a very nice use of surround sound here, especially during the action sequences. But, it's the subwoofer effects which are surprisingly good here, as the melting ice creates a room-shaking sound.

The Ice Age: The Meltdown DVD contains several extras. The best extra is "No Time for Nuts", a 7-minute animated short featuring Scrat. I never thought I'd see a time-traveling Scrat, but here it is. There are some very funny moments here. The DVD features two AUDIO COMMENTARIES. The first is provided by director Carlos Saldanha. The director certainly shows a great deal of enthusiasm...maybe too much as he speaks at a rapid-fire pace throughout the commentary. However, his excitement isn't infectious, as he jumps from topic-to-topic and doesn't get too in-depth on any of them. The second commentary features 12 members of the crew. This chat is far more technical, as the group describes the processes which went into making the film. This can be somewhat dry, but most of it is interesting. "Crash & Eddie Stunts" features three brief sequences which show the two opossums playing soccer, bungie jumping, and showing off. Are these deleted scenes? There's no explanation. With "The Animation Director's Chair", the viewer can watch six scenes in five forms: storyboard, layout, animation, combo, and final. "Meet Crash & Eddie" (2 minutes) has clips and comments from the crew describing the characters. The same is true for "Meet Ellie" (2 minutes). "Lost Historical Films" offers six short "films" which uses clips from Ice Age: The Meltdown to describe the characters in the movie. These are presented as educational shorts. "Scrat's Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab" is a truly weird extra as one can watch a scene from the film with 5 alternate sound effects tracks. "Prank" is a 1 minute outtake. With "Silly Sid & John Leguizamo" (7 minutes), the actor talks about Sid's voice, while we get to see Peter de Seve draw the character. "Music Montage" (1 minute) has various clips and behind-the-scenes footage set to music. Leguiazamo returns to give dance lessons in "Sloth Dancing to Sid's Sing-a-Long" (4 minutes). Finally, we have "Marketing the Meltdown" which offers "Scrat on Family Guy" (Classic!) and Sid hosting Fox Animation Domination

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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