|Director: Carlos Saldanha|
|Screenplay: Peter Gaulke & Gerry Swallow and Jim Hecht|
|Voices: Ray Romano (Manny), John Leguizamo (Sid), Denis Leary (Diego), Seann William Scott (Crash), Josh Peck (Eddie), Queen Latifah (Ellie), Will Arnett (Lone Gunslinger Vulture), Jay Leno (Fast Tony), Chris Wedge (Scrat)|
|MPAA Rating: PG|
|Year of Release: 2006|
|Given the concomitant image on the cover of Time magazine of a polar bear standing sadly on a broken, floating chunk of a glacier, the rest of which has fallen watery victim to rising global temperatures, the computer-animated comedy Ice Age: The Meltdown was oddly well-timed. Of course, its tale of global warming takes place tens of thousands of years ago and its anthropomorphized animals don’t bear any of the blame for the Earth’s gradual warming, but I wouldn’t be surprised if savvy kids put two and two together to realize that what is depicted as light comic mayhem on the giant screen and what is taking place right now at the ends of the Earth are essentially one in the same.|
Unfortunately, Ice Age: The Meltdown is not a particularly good movie, despite having more refined and detailed animation than the first Ice Age and at least one semi-brilliant gag in which a tune from Oliver! is appropriated by a flock of vultures. This shouldn’t be too surprising given that its predecessor was a moderately good comedy, and sequels rarely improve on the original. In fact, the very thing I wrote about the first movie in 2002 applies perfectly to the sequel: “It’s funny and sweet and often clever, but it sometimes feels a little too formulaic.” And formula the second time around only feels more, well, formulaic.
The three main characters from Ice Age return, just as we left them: Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (voiced by Jon Leguizamo), and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (voiced by Dennis Leary). Having learned to work together and view themselves as a “herd” in the first movie, their togetherness is now challenged by the melting world around them. Along with all the other bizarre prehistoric creatures with whom they live in a large valley (some of whom look a little too weird for comfort), they must flee a melting glacier that, once gone, will unleash a torrent of water and flood the land.
The new characters introduced this time around include two possums, Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), and a female mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah) who grew up with them and therefore has come to the conclusion that, despite some obvious differences, she, too, is a possum. Having believed that he was the last of his species, Manny is at first thrilled to meet Ellie, but they soon fall into a predictably antagonistic love-hate relationship when she refuses to admit that she’s a mammoth. A few other new animals, including Jay Leno’s Fast Tony, a sweet-talking turtle trying to make a killing off the global weather change, don’t register as much more than filler.
Which, finally, brings us to the Scrat, the bug-eyed squirrel-rat hybrid with long front fangs and a jones for acorns. As he did in the first movie, the Scrat and his wild antics involving the beloved acorn that is always just out of his grasp are reason enough to watch the movie beginning to end. Voiced by Chris Wedge in a series of grunts, squeals, and high-pitched screams, the Scrat’s indelible and hilarious moments on screen are pure joy, but only serve to emphasize how thin the rest of the movie really is.
|Ice Age: The Meltdown DVD|
|Ice Age: The Meltdown is available in separate widescreen and full-screen versions.|
|Audio||English Dolby Digital 5.1 SurroundFrench Dolby Digital 3.0 SurroundSpanish Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround|
|Supplements||Audio commentary by director Carlos SaldanhaAudio commentary by the crew“No Time for Nuts” short film featuring Scrat“Crash and Eddie Stunts”“The Animation Director’s Chair” multi-angle featurette“Meet Crash & Eddie” and “Meet Ellie” featurettes“Lost Historical Films”“Scrat’s Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab”Outtake Prank“Silly Sid and John Leguizamo” featuretteMusic MontageSloth Dancing to Sid’s Sing-a-LongMarketing the MeltdownIce Age games|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox|
|Release Date||December 5, 2006|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|As one would rightfully expect from a DVD of a recently released computer-animated film, Ice Age: The Meltdown looks superb. The anamorphically enhanced widescreen image is bright and sharp, with the kind of detail that allows you to pause and count the individual hairs on any of the given characters (not that you would probably want to do that ...). Colors are strong and well-saturated, with the icy blues and grays of the first film balanced with the introduction of natural greens and browns (it is “The Meltdown,” after all). The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is likewise excellent, with effective use of the surrounds and a solid low end to give all the groaning, cracking ice an added sense of presence.|
|As with most DVDs of movies aimed at kids, the supplements are a mixed bag of stuff that will appeal to both adults and little ones. For adults, there are two audio commentaries, one by director Carlos Saldhana, most of which he spends discussing the narrative and character (who knew so much motivation went into these animated characters?), and one by 12 members of the crew, ranging from producer Lori Forte, to senior lighting lead Andrew Beddini. Basically, anything you want to know about the technical nature of making a feature-length computer-animated film can be found here.|
The “The Animation Director’s Chair” multi-angle featurette allows you to look at six scenes from the movie in three different stages of production (storyboard, rough animation, and the final product). You can also choose to see the scene in all three stages on the same screen, which offers an interesting opportunity to see firsthand just how carefully conceived the entire film is. “Scrat’s Piranha Smackdown Sound Effects Lab” sounds like it might be interesting ala the audio mixing supplement on Fox’s Die Hard DVD, but it is just allows you to select one of several premixed audio options that use different kinds of amusing sound effects: animals, car noises, classic cartoons, human noises, and musical instruments. Much better is the new Scrat short cartoon, “No Time for Nuts,” which ingenuously elevates the poor animal’s frustration by giving him a time machine so that he can frantically pursue his object of desire across time and space.
Other bits include two very brief promotional featurettes that introduce the characters of Crash and Eddie and Ellie. The disc also includes some examples of synergistic cross-promotion in the section title “Marketing the Meltdown,” which includes a brief clip from an episode of Family Guy featuring Scrat and then a number of bumpers featuring Sid used on Fox’s Sunday-night animation lineup.
The remaining supplements are aimed squarely at the single-digit age demographic, although adults may find some of them amusing, particularly the “Lost Historical Films,” which are faux 1950s-era educational films about Ice Age’s various animals that use scenes from the film that have been dressed down in black and white with scratches and emulsion damage. The “Silly Sid and John Leguizamo” featurette starts with character designer Peter De Sève showing an easy way to draw Sid and finishes with John Leguizamo offering instructions on how to achieve Sid’s unique lateral lisp using everything from lemons to chocolate to crackers (I’m sure parents everywhere will thank him). In “Sloth Dancing to Sid’s Sing-a-Long,” Leguizamo continues his “how to be like Sid” lesson by demonstrating a dance based on the film’s volcano sequence. There are also several DVD-based games for the kiddies, although they so simple that most kids will be bored with them pretty quickly.
Copyright ©2006 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment