March 6, 2006

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Ice Age: The Meltdown (PG)
reviewed by Amy Diaz

The mammoth, saber tooth tiger and sloth of the first Ice Age return to face a global warming, a flood, potential extinction and the possibility of being eaten by vultures - all with cheery aplomb - in the sequel Ice Age: The Meltdown.

According to my review of Ice Age, that first movie was a not-too-painful tale populated by relatively likeable characters and well-built computer animation. The Meltdown is these things with a shot of giddiness and joy that turns a merely tolerable kids' movie into genuine entertainment.

Manny (Ray Romano) is still the de facto leader of an adopted herd that also includes Diego (Denis Leary), the saber tooth, and Sid (John Leguizamo), the goofy sloth. The trio lives in a sunny, happy valley of ice slides, dazzling pools and bustling animal life. But they find out that all this sunshine has caused a disturbing amount of melting in the plateau above the valley. A few more sunny days and all that water will come crashing down on the ant-eaters, turtles, beavers and others who call the area home. Manny, Diego and Sid convince the animals to set off across the valley in hopes of reaching a boat that could let them ride out the floods. As the boys travel, they come across two rascally possums - Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) - and their sister Ellie (Queen Latifah), who also hangs from trees and is afraid of being carried off by a hawk despite the fact that she is a shaggy, nine-ton, tusk-and-trunk-having mammoth. Raised with a possum family, however, Ellie just thinks she a rather large possum. This particularly irks Manny, who has started to wonder if he's the last mammoth on Earth. If he can convince Ellie that she's not a possum (and if they all survive the coming flood) maybe Manny and Ellie can keep the species going.

Between the hyperactive possums and goofishness of Sid, The Meltdown is packed with plenty of little-kid-enthralling slapstick. But the movie also has great moments of cartoon absurdity that - without the hackey fast-talk of movies like Hoodwinked - are plenty entertaining to the bigger kids and adults. Both Leary and Romano have an uncharacteristic-to-animation low-key speaking style that allows them to get laughs with the tone and delivery of their lines (instead of just piling up the punch lines). The movie also mixes the animal part of the animal characters (Diego's catlike fear of water) with human quirks (a race of sloths that understands the geological nature of the global warming but also thinks that sacrifice to a volcano might solve the problem).

One of the movie's best moments mixes animal and human with a Bugs Bunny-ish delight. While the group walks through a valley lined with creepily watchful vultures, Sid wonders aloud what they're thinking, leading to a Bugsby Berkeley-style dance number with the feathers of the vultures fluttering and fanning as they sing about "food, glorious, food" and all the wonderful, magical ways that the mammoths, possums, tiger and sloth would make a tasty dinner. The number is pure zany charm. A-


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