Bad plot devices don't melt Judge Joel Pearce's heart.
Our review of Ice Age: The Meltdown: Special Edition, published March 14th, 2008, is also available.
Kiss your ice goodbye.
I really enjoyed the first Ice Age movie. It wasn't as slick, well animated, intelligent, or clever as the average Pixar film, but it had a number of other things going for it. It had lots of energy, great chemistry between the three leads, and the kind of physical humor we haven't seen much of since the classic animation era. Well, like every other film from the past decade that earned back its production budget, a sequel was inevitable. But does Ice Age: The Meltdown heat up a good franchise, or leave the audience cold?
The first thing to note about Meltdown is that there's virtually no continuity between this and the first film. Scrat makes another appearance, even though he shouldn't be thawed for another few hundred thousand years. Perhaps that's less important than the main premise of the film, though. The first film took place at the onset of the ice age. The sequel is set shortly afterwards—as the ice age is ending. Are kids to believe that the ice age only lasted a year or two? At any rate, Sid (John Leguizamo, Land of the Dead), Manny (Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond), and Diego (Denis Leary, The Thomas Crown Affair) are hanging around when they discover that the valley they have all been living in is about to be 100 feet underwater. They begin a hurried journey to the other side of the valley, which is slowed when they meet up with Ellie (Queen Latifah, Stranger Than Fiction), who just might be the last female mammoth on earth. The only problem? She's been raised to believe that she's an opossum. This is going to be a long trip.
Ice Age: The Meltdown is one of the most disjointed films that I have reviewed for the site. Some parts are great, easily living up to the original film. The chemistry between the three leads is still fantastic; John Leguizamo's Sid still steals virtually every scene in the film; the ongoing misadventures of Scrat remain hilarious as well, as everyone's favorite rodent is still trying to store an acorn for the winter. There are a few pleasant surprises this time around, too, such as a bold musical number from a pack of vultures.
Unfortunately, for every good sequence in Ice Age: The Meltdown, there is one that's mind-numbingly bad. The whole Ellie character is frustrating and pointless, since the "mammoth who thinks she's an opossum" joke is funny for all of two seconds. As the wisecracks and sight gags go on and on and on, it quickly becomes intolerable. It's a plot device that's insulting to the intelligence of a three year old. Ellie's opossum brothers—the other additions to the cast—bring little to the film aside from a light dose of obnoxious antagonism. There are few moments with the new characters that I didn't wish I could just be watching the original cast instead.
This chasm between the scenes makes it a more difficult recommendation. Without question, young fans of the first film will find lots to enjoy here. Even adults will enjoy a few of the jokes, but I can't imagine anyone walking away claiming this is as good as the original. The script is to blame, I think, and the cast is only able to save the production through the quality of the original and the hilarious improvisation that they deliver.
Since I have reviewed a watermarked screener, I'm unable to judge the quality of the transfer. I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that the digital to digital transfer on the DVD is probably excellent. The sound transfer was strong, though none of it leapt out like the ice popping opening of the first movie. There are plenty of extras on the screener, all of which will appear on the final product. Like the first DVD, there is a Scrat short, which is just as good (if not better) than Ice Age: The Meltdown. There are two commentary tracks, one with the director and one with way too many crew members. There are some animation development sequences, as well as some new character introductions. None of these show us anything new about the production process. There are a handful of fake science videos as well, which are quite cute.
If your kids are big fans of the first Ice Age movie, the sequel is probably worth adding to the collection. You won't like it as much, but there's still lots in it to entertain the kiddies. If you enjoy animation yourself, I would recommend Ice Age: The Meltdown as a rental. There is enough to warrant one viewing, but it pales in comparison to the original.
I'm going to let this one go, but whoever wrote the script needs a good solid smack for the Ellie plot.
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