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</script></div>{/googleAds}That quartet of furry little prehistorians we came to love in 2002's Ice Age returns for Ice Age: The Meltdown. But while the film's makers promise the sequel has everything we loved about the first movie, what they fail to deliver is something fresh and new, making The Meltdown a sometimes funny but always tiresome retread of the original.

We catch up with Manny, the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid, the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo), Diego, the saber-toothed tiger (voiced by Dennis Leary) and of course Scrat the persistent squirrel as the ice pack begins to melt, signaling the end of the ice age. Pulling a page from the headlines of the real world, Manny realizes the danger as he discovers their valley is in a bowl below sea level surrounded by a slowly failing system of ice dams.

A few new characters give opportunity for some new plot developments and unique storylines. Like Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) a female woolly mammoth that plays as Manny's love interest. Raised by a family of possums, she has a bit of an identity crisis and as a result, sleeps in trees hanging by her tail. Her prankster possum brothers, Crash and Eddie (voiced by Sean William Scott and Josh Peck respectively) provide much needed hijinks and comic relief as the entire gang spends the film's runtime trudging to the other end of the valley where an ark-like boat is awaiting their arrival.

Besides the doom and gloom created by the impending flood, a real sense of danger comes in the form of a pair of prehistoric sea creatures recently awakened by the thaw. These crocodilian beasts are loud, violent and downright bad to the bone. Several of the smaller tykes in the screening I attended were truly frightened and ran for their Mommies. So be forewarned. A dreadfully funny group of singing vultures continually hovers overhead, awaiting the deaths of our heroes. At one point they even break out into a chorus of "Food, Glorious Food," an obscure reference to the 1968 musical, Oliver!

As are most animated features, Ice Age: The Meltdown is full of heady kid issues including dealing with geekiness, overcoming fear and phobias, and learning to live with a new family. The filmmakers try to artfully mask these moments with bouts of levity and for the most part they succeed. There are some truly funny bits, but quite often they go for the easy humor by stooping below the potty level. One particularly uncomfortable moment comes from Manny and Ellie discussing the size her derriere. Manny exclaims, "you've got the biggest darn butt I've ever seen. I mean it's huge!" But we can always count on that scrappy squirrel, Scrat, to pull us back from the pits of depravity.

Ice Age: The Meltdown is just too much like its prequel to amount to anything fresh and memorable. Both films involve a horde of animals slowly trudging across the icescape towards a common goal, with interludes of Scrat chasing an ever-elusive acorn. A bigger imagination and more advanced storyline would have meant a much higher level of entertainment. Speaking of Scrat here was another missed opportunity. Even though his bit was funny in the first film, the failure to advance his character in this one is just lazy screenwriting. They tried to milk one more film out of his character, but clearly faced an insurmountable challenge and failed miserably. Ice Age: The Meltdown is a victim of the success of its predecessor, and that's too bad. Because once again, unimaginative filmmaking will be rewarded when the huge box office returns and DVD sales come pouring in.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish

Language and Sound: Color; interactive menus; scene access; trailer; all-new shorts; commentary; making-of featurettes; sing-a-long; bloopers.

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; exclusive new short movie.

* Commentary - With director Carlos Sandahna and the full cast and crew
* Featurettes -
o No Time for Nuts - Scrat short
o Crash and Eddie Stunts - a series of stunts featuring the two new possum characters.
o Animation Director's Chair - displays storyboard to final product translation.
o Meet Crash and Eddie - Promotional short on the characters
o Meet Ellie - Promotional short
o Lost Historical Films - documentary shorts
o Scrat's Pirahna Smackdown Sound Effects Lab
o Outtake Prank
o Silly Sid and John Leguizamo - entertaining short on how Sid is assembled, how to draw the character yourself, and how Leguizamo crafted the voice.
o Musical Montage - short clip that includes production, premier, and voicing footage.
o Sloth Dancing to Sid's Sing-A-Long John Leguizamo teaches how to do Sid's dance from the film.
o Marketing the Meltdown a promo featuring Peter Griffin from Family Guy interacting with Scrat, as well as a series of introductions included during Fox's Animation Domination featuring Sid.
o Ice Age Arcade several DVD remote operated games.
* DVD-Rom Features - includes 4 scenes that didn't make the final cut.
* Fox Promos

Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging.

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