Way back in 2002, Ice Age amazed analysts with $180 million in box office gross and prooved that Disney and Dreamworks do not control the animated market. Unfortunately, aside from a few funny moments, the movie also sucked, but I knew way back then that at $180 million, a sequel was inevitable.
Enter Ice Age: The Meltdown, Fox's sure-to-be-a-hit follow-up. Once again, Fox wisely relied on the small rat-like creature Scrat (and his acorn) for its advertising, and that advertising led to $195 in box office receipts, not counting DVD sales. Scrat even had me pumped for the first movie, and I found the previews for the second to be just as funny, if not funnier. But I knew better. I knew that this one little clip of the movie, where Scrat climbs an ice wall to retrieve his precious acorn only to find the wall giving way to forceful water, was going to be the funniest part, and that everything else was going to be downhill from there.
But, for your pleasure, I watched the movie anyway.
And, frankly, Ice Age: The Meltdown (we'll call it Ice Age 2 for simplicity) is about the same as its predecessor. My biggest issue with the previous film was that it was a little boring at times, a little heavy-handed and no more than a less-entertaining version of The Land Before Time. Ice Age 2 improves on the first problem; it is no longer boring. The movie is consistently fun, if not in a mediocre way. There are no long dips where the movie tangents into stories about how the mammoths are getting slaughtered, blah blah blah. The characters are always on the run (from the ice dam that is about to break and kill every creature in the valley) and plenty of funny little critters show up along the way. At the same time, while the movie is more consistent, it has less laugh-out-loud sequences and more scary sequences guaranteed to make your little kids cover their eyes.
Ice Age 2 has more of Scrat, the franchise's most popular character, and all of his scenes are pretty entertaining. Sid the idiot sloth, voiced by John Leguizamo, also has his moments, especially when he discovers a group of volcano-worshipping cousins who believes that he is the Fire God (of course, the Fire God needs to be sacrificed to the volcano). The introduction of Queen Latifah as a female mammoth who thinks she is a possum is a clever idea, although the movie doesn't capitalize on this situation as much as it should. Her character also results in some of the film's most awkward moments (like Ray Romano's mammoth character trying to explain to her that she is indeed the last female mammoth and he is the last male mammoth and that they can replenish their species by doing you-know-what).
Missing from Ice Age 2, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, is the human child, who was probably the highlight of the original film. Despite the introduction of several new, mildly funny characters, the lack of the human child is the sole reason why there are less laugh-out-loud moments in the sequel.
The movie also has some scary moments that are unsuitable for small children - a sequence where a bunch of water-dwelling crocodile-like creatures attack the entourage is pretty freaky, and I even jumped at one part where one of the monsters leaps out of the water.
Ice Age: The Meltdown has its moments and ultimately is a more consistent picture than its predecessor, but that consistency comes at a cost. I don't know which one I'd choose, as the first one was funnier but less engaging and this new one more subdued but a little easier to watch. Of course, the easy answer is that neither film is especially great and so you might as well just rent Toy Story.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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