How the era of computer animated films has changed in just the past few years. When the original Ice Age was released back in 2002, the genre was virtually unstoppable. Every offering was not only a box office cash cow, but also quite inventive and fun. I was not a ringing endorser of the original film; for my money it was the first borderline weak entry into the arena, and Ice Age: The Meltdown doesn’t deviate much from what made the original so popular. We have Scrat, the half squirrel/half rat who bookends scenes with his constant adventures based entirely his attempted acquisition of an acorn. Our heroes Manny the Mammoth (Romano), Sid the Sloth (Leguizamo), and Diego the Tiger (Leary) are also up to their usual hijinks. Just to make sure another month doesn’t go by without Queen Latifah appearing in something, she joins the fun as a fellow mammoth who thinks she’s a possum.
Taking place after the original film, the story finds our friends affected by global warming as their habitat starts melting from all ends. The bulk of the screenplay tracks their various misadventures with the diverse array of creatures that occupy their land. The aforementioned Scrat scenes are intermittently inserted and are a nice throwback to animated work of old.
That the story is based around global warming is curious to say the least. Obviously the film has been in planning for years, but in light of new findings the story is very relevant. The prospective consequences of global warming are unveiled with all the grace of a Michael Moore film, and I’m sure parents will be surprised by the political, as well as religious, content. The vessel by which the animals look to escape the impending catastrophe sure looks a lot like Noah’s Ark. In a time when polar bears are drowning in the “ground” they once stood on, the message needs to be out there, but I’m not so sure that this is the avenue for it.
But the real problem is that the film just takes way too long to get off the ground. After Scrat’s opening scene the films grinds to a sluggish halt and never really picks up a nice pace until the final act. The laughs are scatter-shot at best, but the good news is that it only resorts to fart humor once. The animation varies from excellent to pedestrian, almost as if the film is being released prematurely. Some fine-tuning definitely would have helped, particularly with the action sequences that are other wise well-directed by Carlos Saldanha.
The voice work is adequate, but hardly memorable. Ray Romano never shows much enthusiasm as the lead character, often speaking in monotone as if he’s being burdened between sips of coffee. Denis Leary is criminally wasted as Diego, spending most scenes lumbering behind the group and spouting generic dialogue. Queen Latifah brings some fervor to Ellie, but I kept waiting for her to tell me about the Cheesy Bites Pizza from Pizza Hut. Honestly, she’s done voice-overs to death, and it’s become a distraction. John Leguizamo once again steals the show as Sid, lending a playful lisp and excitement that is contagious.
No longer do simply pretty animated films get the job done, and recent duds like Chicken Little, Valiant, and this prove it. The overall theme of the film is timely and deserves attention, but families do not want to pay $10 to be lectured on global warming at the cineplex. Fans of the original will likely enjoy this new batch of shenanigans, but those looking for something new or consistently hilarious may just want to stay home and watch Finding Nemo.
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Length: 90 Minutes
Rating: PG for some mild language and innuendo.
Theatrical Release: March 31, 2006
Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Written by: Jon Vitti
Cast: Ray Romano (voice), John Leguizamo (voice), Denis Leary (voice), Seann William Scott (voice), Josh Peck (voice), Queen Latifah (voice)