Ice Age: The Meltdown
If any one movie proved that Disney no longer owned the animation market, it was Ice Age. Four years ago, Pixar had produced a few Disney-sponsored hits, and DreamWorks had cleverly positioned itself as the anti-Disney with movies like Shrek, but the animated world still basically revolved around the Mouse House in one way or another—until Ice Age came along. Produced by Blue Sky and distributed by 20th Century Fox, this prehistoric computer-animated cartoon didn't exactly revolutionize the art of storytelling, but it did exist on its own terms, and what's more, audiences flocked to it—and in greater numbers than they have gone to almost any of Disney's homegrown efforts for the past decade.
With success like that, a sequel was inevitable, and here it is. Ice Age: The Meltdown offers up more of what made the first film a hit: the woolly mammoth Manfred (voice of Ray Romano) is still coping with the loss of his family, and possibly his entire species; he and his friends, Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the sabretooth tiger (Denis Leary), escape several perilous situations as they embark on a migration together; and the story is punctuated every now and then by hilarious scenes featuring Scrat, the mute squirrel-rat who steals the show with his oft-thwarted struggles to find, keep, and hide his nuts.
Some things are different, though. You may recall that the first film ended with Sid saying, as he and his new friends walked into the sunset, "You know, this whole Ice Age thing's getting old. You know what I could go for? Global warming." In the second film, Sid gets his wish; a giant, mountain-sized block of ice is melting, and when the wall of ice bursts—for some reason it has stayed frozen, and acts like a dam, even though everything behind it has turned to water—the valley in which the animals live will be flooded. And so the animals who live in that valley embark on an emergency migration to a "boat" that might save them. (It sounds, and looks a bit, like Noah's Ark, but it's actually a tree trunk.)
There are no Neanderthals or human beings this time, and without them and their complicated relationship to the animals, the second film lacks the themes of revenge and forgiveness that made the first film so unexpectedly moving. Indeed, there are no villains of any sort here, not even among the animals—unless you count a couple of sea monsters who emerge from the thawed ice, or the vultures who never directly hurt anybody, but who gloat over how they can't wait to feast on the other animals once they've drowned.
Plus, because there is no longer any serious friction between the three main characters—Manfred no longer minds the company, and Diego no longer threatens to eat anyone (which raises the question, exactly what does this natural carnivore live on, now?)—the new film has to find other ways to make them funny and to give them some sort of character growth. The results are rather lame in Diego's case; we learn that this supposedly tough tiger has an embarrassing phobia, so of course, a situation arises later on which requires him to conquer his fear, and that's that. Things aren't much better where Sid is concerned, though his story at least takes some amusing turns, when he encounters a tribe of sloths who give him the respect that he wants, just not perhaps in the way that he would want it.