Sunday, December 2, 2012

Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) - Let's Do the Meltdown Shuffle with Manny, Sid and Diego!

Ice Age: The Meltdown - Scrat Takes Over the Franchise

Ice Age: The Meltdown
"Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006).
When we last left our intrepid ice-age denizens Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Diego (Denis Leary) in, um, "Ice Age," they had survived the first rumblings of global cooling and taken care of a human child entrusted to their care. They're not out of the woods igloo yet, though: so far they've seen just the beginning of their troubles. In "Ice Age: The Meltdown" (2006), one of our heroes starts thinking about starting a family - and we all know that's when the real trouble usually starts.

Scrat carrying his acorn in Ice Age: The Meltdown
Scrat just can't get rid of that nut!
Echoing the first film, this one has Scrat (Chris Wedge) trying to bury a nut, this time on a glacier. He manages to pound it in, but then out spurts a jet of water. It just so happens that the ice is melting. Once again, Scrat appears in hilarious vignettes elsewhere in the film.

Diego and Sid in Ice Age: The Meltdown
Diego was supposed to be killed off in the first film!
Manny hasn't seen another mammoth such as himself for... ages, but one day he stumbles upon what must be the last female mammoth left on earth. They can't tolerate each other, but there's something more: turns out she's crazy and thinks she's a possum. Now, we've all dealt with crazy partners - oh, wait, that's just me - OK, we usually know someone who's dealt with a crazy partner with baggage. Ellie (Queen Latifah), though, goes one step further and actually brings hers out in the open in the form of what she claims are her two "brothers."

Sid Ice Age: The Meltdown
I love that expression on Sid's face.
The two possums, Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) are cocky, loudmouth pranksters who cause everyone around them nothing but trouble. They enjoy playing "whack-a-mole" and generally annoy everyone. They sure do breathe some extra life into the middle of the film, though.

A gathering of animals in Ice Age: The Meltdown
For some reason, this reminds me of a scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey."
However, everyone now has a bigger problem: the water levels are rising, and the animals need to escape the flood. Diego is terrified of the water, and Sid tries to help him deal with that in some amusing "You just have to believe in yourself" exchanges.

Scrat and his acorn underwater in Ice Age: The Meltdown
Scrat still has the nut...
Manny puts some clumsy moves on Ellie, but she won't have any of it. They eventually learn to work together in order to save the others when the ground beneath them starts cracking. Something, incidentally, that we all might want to learn to do.

The two possum brothers jumping in the air in Ice Age: The Meltdown
The two possum brothers acting like frat boys.
Meanwhile, Sid the Sloth gets mistaken for a god by a group of mini-sloths, who intend to sacrifice him, but he manages to escape. In one of the funnier sequences in the film, nobody believes him when he tells his story in all seriousness.

Sid bowing to Diego in Ice Age: The Meltdown
I love how stoic Diego looks.
When the flood finally comes, everything is thrown into turmoil. Manny must prove his manhood when Ellie faces destruction, while Diego must confront his fears of water if he is to help the others to escape.

Fossil in Ice Age: The Meltdown
A little heroism is always good!
While the film ostensibly is about the main characters Manny, Sid and Diego, again it is Scrat who gets the biggest laughs. One can imagine the discussions about this in the studio cafeteria when a voiceless character takes over a franchise. Some of the promotional materials even feature Scrat exclusively.

Film Poster Ice Age: The Meltdown
Yes, Scrat is the star, all right.
Director Carlos Saldanha, though, did not rest on the franchise's laurels such as Scrat's break-out status. He re-tooled the characters to make them more expressive and emotive. As a result, this is a livelier film than the first installment. Saldanha's efforts were appreciated so much that he was invited back to do the follow-up film, 2009's "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs."

Manny and Ellie on an ice floe in Ice Age: The Meltdown
Manny and Ellie kind of cramped on that ice floe.
The film was the highest-grossing animated film of 2006 worldwide, even somehow topping "Cars." That is most likely because the characters and themes of "Ice Age" are more universal than those of "Cars." This also is a more comical franchise, whereas "Cars" tends slightly more toward drama and romance. What romance there is here is played strictly for laughs. Laughs travel well across the oceans, at least good ones do.

Foreign Nintendo DS cover for Ice Age: The Meltdown
This just shows how universal this series really is.
The two possum brothers come near to stealing this film, just as Scrat did the last time. The pace also picks up appreciably in the second half after dragging a bit early on. Sequels aren't usually that original compared to their predecessors, even highly respected ones such as "The Godfather: Part II," but this is even more derivative than usual. The phenomenal popularity of Scrat is a double-edged sword, because, while he is a perfect comical character, his antics don't advance the story. The activities of the others, though, at times seem to be there just to give Scrat time to rest up for his next act.

Scrat tap-dancing on water above piranha in Ice Age: The Meltdown
"I'm dancing as fast as I can!"
In summary, this is not the best sequel ever made, but that probably isn't where they were aiming. It manages to again be a very funny film, which isn't easy with follow-ups. It only runs 91 minutes, and much of that is taken up with Scrat, so the plot is very simple and easy for the youngsters to understand. It's not really necessary to have seen "Ice Age" to understand this film, though it would help. The computer animation by Blue Sky Studios and Twentieth Century Fox Animation again is quite good, but not ground-breaking this time out. It is more of the same - which was quite excellent the first time around, and still is here.

Scrat alone in the wilderness with his nut in Ice Age: The Meltdown
Scrat never will get rid of that nut...
This plays exactly as it should, like a continuation of the first film without too much new thrown on the screen. Sure, a little more originality would have been nice, but you don't always get what you want. This will pass the time before you get to the follow-up, which is the jewel in the crown of the series.

Below is the preview for "Ice Age: The Meltdown."


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