“Ice Age: The Meltdown” is – big surprise – the sequel to 2002’s “Ice Age,” which might as well have been subtitled, “How Three Comedians Managed to Parlay Their Marginally Entertaining Stand-Up Routines into A More Profitable Venue.” Ray Romano is Manny, the exasperated mammoth, Denis Leary is the surly saber-toothed tiger Diego, and John Leguizamo plays Sid, the mutant sloth.
Okay, so maybe he isn’t actually supposed to be a mutant, but…yeesh; those eyes.
“Meltdown,” like the original “Ice Age,” is another road movie. In the latter, the three unlikely companions attempted to return a human infant to its tribe. The mildly amusing antics were punctuated by a few mildly intense scenes involving Diego’s evil tiger brethren. This time around, the titular ice age appears to be coming to and end, and the huge frozen dam that protects the valley where these animals live is melting and in imminent danger of collapsing and flooding them all out.
As with the first film, we’re also treated to the antics of an amphetamine-addled rodent (with fangs) names “Scrat” who spends the entire movie pursuing an elusive acorn. His scenes are the best part of the movie.
Like any good kids’ movie, “Meltdown” invokes both the specter of global warming and the horrors of hurricane Katrina. The valley where the animals reside is repeatedly described as a “bowl,” for starters, and all of it is apparently the same rough elevation as New Orleans’ 9th Ward. And once the ice starts a-crackin’, Manny, Diego, Sid, and the rest of the glyptodons and baluchitherium have a scant three days to traverse the length of the valley to where a “boat” allegedly awaits them.
Yeah, a boat. I was half-hoping the movie would catch the audience by surprise and go all “Passion of the Christ” on us: would Noah really save them all from the wrath of Jehovah, or would he make them fight for the best seats? And what about the baby from the first movie? Would he be all grown up and – forgetting the debt he owed the animals – drive Manny off a cliff with his Paleolithic friends?
As you can imagine, Noah doesn’t make an appearance, and neither do any humans, for that matter. The biggest addition to the sequel comes in the form of a female mammoth named Ellie, voiced by Queen Latifah, who eventually puts an end to Manny’s endless tusk-wringing about being the last of his kind.
I say “eventually” because she initially thinks she’s a possum, and hangs out with two of the nasty marsupials, whom she regards as brothers. The possums are the obvious sop to the TV-addled youngsters who need their daily Bam Margera content to keep from huffing paint in the garage, as they exchange wise-a*s comments and high fives, and engage in the prehistoric equivalent of “extreme sports.” Woo-hoo. As for the main performers, Romano is little more than “Everybody Loves Raymond” in a fur coat and Leary sounds like he can’t be bothered. Only Leguizamo makes an impression, and has the best subplot (kidnapping and near sacrifice by a tribe of fire-worshipping sloths).
If you’re over the age of 11, there’s obviously not much reason to see this. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is lob another softball Hollywood message about “family” at the youngsters, mixing in lessons about facing your fears and sticking by your friends. And then there’s Scrat, periodically breaking into the main story like an antediluvian Greek chorus, if only to remind us how much fun animation can be when it doesn’t take itself so damn seriously.