Ice Age: The Meltdown (United States, 2006)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Despite its popularity with children, Ice Age represented, at the time, a nadir for digital animation. Although entertaining, the film couldn't stand toe-to-toe with its Pixar and Dreamworks competitors. Ice Age: The Meltdown represents a further step backwards. Although the animation has improved, the regression is keenly felt in other areas - particularly the story. This is a lackluster film that exists exclusively because its predecessor made money.

Thankfully, the best character from the original Ice Age, the sabertooth squirrel, is back. This time, his role is expanded to give him an extra four or five minutes of screen time. The producers, recognizing his popularity, have accorded him a half-dozen comedic episodes in his never-ending quest to capture an elusive acorn. Not since Wiley Coyote has a character been so brutalized in his foiled attempts to obtain dinner. It's through these interludes that one feels the animators channeling the spirit of Chuck Jones. The character deserves to star in his own series of shorts rather than be lumped in with the unremarkable entities populating Ice Age: The Meltdown.

The three principals have returned from Ice Age - Manny the Woolly Mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the Sabertooth Tiger (Denis Leary) - although they're trapped in a movie with almost no plot. For this installment, they are joined by Ellie the Mammoth (Queen Latifa), who might represent Manny's chance to repopulate his species if she can be convinced that she's not a possum. Also along for the ride are Ellie's "brothers," possums Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). They're all on a pilgrimage to high ground, since global warming is about to cause the collapse of an ice dam that will result in a massive flood.

Ice Age: The Meltdown has its share of humorous moments, but most of these involve the squirrel. The main plot involving the exodus and the Mammoth romance is more often dull than amusing. This is a problem, because no motion picture can be entirely successful when secondary characters and storylines trump the primary ones. However, the reality is that when people think of the Ice Age movies, the squirrel comes to mind. We need more of him and less of the laconic Manny and his uninspired sidekicks.

The film's director is Carlos Saldanha, who co-directed two other Fox animated features: Ice Age and Robots. One improvement he makes to this sequel is to improve its look. The characters and settings are still a little blocky and lack the visual grace of efforts like Finding Nemo and Shrek, but they are improved. Technically, Ice Age is adequate, although that's an improvement over most of the digitally animated films of the past year. Kids - the distributor's target market - don't care much about this, however. Ice Age: The Meltdown delivers the kind of cinematic package they expect: cute animals, funny moments, and cartoonish action sequences. With the bar set so high by Pixar and Dreamworks, adults have come to expect more from animated films than Ice Age: The Meltdown delivers.

Ice Age: The Meltdown (United States, 2006)

Director: Carlos Saldanha
Cast: (voices) Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifa, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck
Screenplay: Jon Vitti
Music: John Powell
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2006-03-31
MPAA Rating: "PG" (Nothing Objectionable)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1