U.S. Release Date: March 31, 2006
Distributor: Fox
Director: Carlos Saldanha
Producer: Christopher Meledandri (executive), Chris Wedge (executive)
Composer: John Powell
Cast: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah
Running Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (some mild language and innuendo)

Overloaded Sequel Satisfies
by Scott Holleran

Not as exciting as its title suggests and sagging in the middle, Ice Age: The Meltdown meets its modest demands to match the original's light humor and theme of emotional bonding. Director Carlos Saldanha, working solo this time out, serves more of the same formula.

Major characters, and the actors who provide voices, return: Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo). Scrat—the fictitious acorn-obsessed animal with bulging eyes and bad luck—is also back, peppering the action with several vignettes in an expanded role that comes largely at the expense of the Leary character.

Diego, deprived of suspicious motives, fades into the background with a subplot about conquering one's fears. That's a shame, since the threesome had a rhythm playing off guileless Sid. The simplicity of their mission also suffers, with the gang, noticing that the glacier is melting and urging the herd toward safer ground, going up against a pair of dangerous water beasts—and meeting a major new character.

Queen Latifah steps in as Ellie, a mammoth traveling with two obnoxious possum. She thinks she is a possum, too, and a mammoth that thinks she's a possum is not especially funny. Besides, Ellie's identity crisis, like Manny's dilemma in the first picture, masks a traumatic past, and it takes too long to find out what it is. Additional characters drain the story's energy and hook the script to joke-based humor.

Popping with sight gags and one-liners, the picture piles on more stuff, including the customary collective scene—Toy Story had aliens, Ice Age had do-do birds, and this sequel offers a throng of cultish sloths. Sometimes it clicks but falls flat just as often, including a budding romance between Manny and Ellie and a musical number from Oliver! Again, Sid, the kid stand-in character, saves the day.

Nodding off in spots, Ice Age: The Meltdown wheezes its way to a predictable conclusion. In spots, it is funny—Leguizamo steals the show, with Romano and Leary (when he's allowed to speak) playing straight—and the animation is far superior to the first movie, adding dimension and definition. For what it is, and it's as light as a marshmallow, this follow-up is cool enough.

Buy on DVD
DVD Notes
Ice Age: The Meltdown premieres on one disc with chunks of extras presented in clear, simple navigation. Scene selection menus are easy to read and use (though the review disc had a life of its own) and Fox adds two audio commentaries—one with twelve people, which must be a record—and six clips broken down by storyboard, animation, combination and the final scene.

A new animated short featuring Scrat, No Time for Nuts, is standard cartoon fare. The six-minute piece puts the scrawny squirrel-rat creature in a time warp. The commentaries, one by the director, one by a team of animators and crew, are constant. They reveal that each character's voiceover is recorded separately, that a producer loved the vultures' musical number because "it was such a departure from the movie," and that animators—apparently, for the first time—were able to control the size of each character's pupils and irises.

Trivia games, a bit with Leguizamo about drawing Sid the sloth (Romano, Leary and Latifah are in short supply) and a personality character matchup are also included.

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