Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown / **½ (PG)

Featuring the voices of:
Manny: Ray Romano
Sid: John Leguizamo
Diego: Denis Leary
Ellie: Queen Latifah
Crash: Sean William Scott
Eddie: Josh Peck
Fast Tony: Jay Leno

Twentieth Century Fox/ Blue Sky Animation presents a film directed by Carlos Saldanha. Written by Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow and Jim Hecht. Running time: 90 min. Rated PG (for some mild language and innuendo).

Watching my 4 year-old son Jack as he took in the most anticipated film of the year so far for him, I was struck by what we as adults have lost in those year since smaller moments could define an entire experience. During certain sequences in the digitally animated prehistoric-set sequel “Ice Age: The Meltdown” Jack seemed as if he was going to pull his seat out of the floor to which it was bolted. His face showed wonder and excitement. He spoke out loud, uncontrollably to the characters on the screen.

There were even moments were I found myself caught up in the thrill of watching well-known imaginary friends in peril. One sequence in particular involved the heroes of the original “Ice Age”; Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano, TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo, “Land of the Dead”), and Diego the saber tooth tiger (Denis Leary, TV’s “Rescue Me”); and their new friends Ellie (Queen Latifah, “Taxi”), Crash (Sean William Scott, “The Rundown”), and Eddie (Josh Peck, “Mean Creek”) as they make their way across a frozen lake. The Ice Age has ended and the valley in which all these animals live is beginning to melt. During their lake trek the ice begins to break up. The break up of the ice pack is tense enough, but unbeknownst to the group of animals is that there are a couple of dinofish that have also thawed out in the meltdown and are stalking the group as prey. The scene is pretty intense.

This action sequence comes fairly early in the events of the story. There isn’t really another action sequence until the very end of the film, when the ice walls of the valley the animals are trying to escape finally melts through. This flood sequence is fairly similar to the ice pack scene and is the only other time in the film when the villainous dinofish come into play.

There are a few other memorable moments, such as the opening sequence where we discover that the three heroes have come to reside in what resembles an ice age theme park, with water slides and children’s programs, and a development that finds the moronic Sid being worshiped by hundreds of mini-sloths bent on sacrificing him to save the planet. But these are merely a series of neat ideas that are strung together by a flimsy story involving the meltdown, which no one really seems all that concerned about, and Manny’s search to find another mammoth.

The Mammoth he eventually finds isn’t quite what she seems, to herself at least. Abandoned as a child, Ellie was raised by a family of possums and obliviously exists trying to be a fun loving, care free possum like her “brothers,” Crash and Eddie. Ellie tries to hang from trees with her tail, although the branches always break with her mammoth weight. Crash and Eddie are just the other side of crazy for no reason other than they have to top the zaniness of Sid.

This story of Manny bringing enlightenment to Ellie (and thus himself, of course) drags the stretches between the effective moments of the film to a snail’s pace. The characters really aren’t interesting enough to pull off these quieter moments and leave the audience longing for something to happen. There was a moment in the middle of the film where Jack just got out of his seat and started looking around the theater. I asked him if something was wrong, but I think he just didn’t understand why nothing was happening. It wasn’t just a four year-old’s impatience because nothing was happening in the movie.

A saving grace of the film was that the filmmakers realized the saber tooth squirrel Scrat was the most successful feature of the first film, and they have brought him back in force this time around. I think Scrat got to see more screen time with his relentless search for acorns in this sequel. From scaling “Mission: Impossible” type cliff edges to doing his own “Kung Fu Hustle” on a school of piranha, Scrat seems to trying to attain the same station as Kenny from “South Park.” Like Kenny, it is Scrat’s continual demise that keeps the audience coming back for more. I would have much rather watched a feature length collection of Scrat’s adventures than witness more adventures of the other characters, who are not yet old enough to feel as tired as they do in this film.


Gaza said...

I enjoyed the part where Sid had the mini-sloths doing the follow-the-leader dance. John Liguizamo is so inventive with this character. As he is with any other out of the ordinary character. Of course, John is out of the ordinary himself. Sorry, no poo or boobie jokes this time.:(

Anonymous said...

If you have poo on you, throw it now.