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The Independent Critic

Queen Latifah, Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo
Carlos Saldanha
Peter Gaulke
Rated PG
90 Mins.
20th Century Fox
 "Ice Age 2" Review 
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I have a Friday night ritual.

It started January 1, 2006. The day went live, my Friday night's became about seeing the latest film releases. On any given weekend, I find myself watching anywhere from one to four films. The routine is always the same. I leave work about 5:30 or 6:00pm, I grab a quick bite to eat and I head to the theatre. I typically find myself seeing the latest matinee showing, or the 7pm and 9pm showings for the latest films. Then, I rush home and joyfully write my reviews. Truthfully, I've grown to really enjoy this routine and it is frequently the highlight of my week.

Tonight, I'm having a meltdown.

I should have seen it coming. I'd had a demanding day at work that caused the work day to be extended until nearly 8:00pm. I arrive at the theatre in time to catch a showing of "Ice Age: The Meltdown," the film I have agreed to review this evening. The evening is starting to look promising...the auditorium is crowded, but not TOO crowded. There are kids in the some consider this a bad thing, but I consider having kids in the audience a necessity when watching a children's or family film. This particular group seemed well-behaved, but very enthusiastic. Ahhh. There was hope after all.

I am now at home sitting at my computer writing my review. I'm struggling. I keep stopping and starting over. There really aren't words to express how I feel about "Ice Age 2," but meltdown seems like a good place to start.

Remember the original? It was a largely irrelevant, yet oddly endearing film featuring unique characters, an actual storyline and, well, Scrat. Remember Scrat? He's the one in all the trailers...that adorable little squirrel-like animal who's always chasing the acorn. The original "Ice Age" found its way to a US gross of over $176 million. So, a sequel would have to be considered inevitable.

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" kicks off many years later, but features the vast majority of the same characters (with no apparent signs of aging). We have Manny (Ray Romano), a woolly mammoth, along with his closest friends Diego (Denis Leary), a sabre-tooth tiger, and Sid (John Leguizamo), a sloth.

"Ice Age: The Meltdown" is, essentially, a road flick. Once we are introduced to the characters, we learn from Fast Tony (Jay Leno), that the ice is melting and all the animals must leave the valley if they are to survive. Rather accidentally, Manny discovers this is, indeed, true and everyone begins their journey.

Manny, who has grown to fear that he's the last living mammoth, meets Ellie (Queen Latifah), a woolly mammoth who believes she's a possum. She travels with her two possum brothers, Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann William Scott).

Of course, the journey is harrowing and dangerous and suspenseful as they fight for survival and learn valuable life lessons along the way.

Director Carlos Saldanha takes a lighter approach to the festivities, an approach that occasionally reaps great rewards. Scrat, for example, is back in even lengthier segments that seem to serve as transitional scenes to the main plot action. These scenes are funny, inventive and nearly always more interesting than anything else going on.

Likewise, a scene involving vultures waiting for them to do while doing a spin-off of "Food, Glorious, Food!" is entertaining and funny, though I kept asking myself "How does this fit at all?"

"How does this fit at all?" became the recurring question throughout the 90-minute film. There were a few cute, funny scenes but they seemed disconnected from anything related to the actual plot of the film. Repeatedly, scenes would occur with great suspense never to be referred to again.

The greatest challenge I had during "Ice Age: The Meltdown" is that it never involved me enough to allow me to suspend belief. In order for an animated film to work, there's a certain amount of buy-in required. I never bought in to this film, and found myself regularly distracted by animation that seemed bland and boring, a script that seemed to use words a bit too advanced for the target audience, and the scenes were so disconnected that even the film's comic moments weren't sustained.

Have you ever watched a film only to find yourself at the end of it asking yourself "Why did that need to be made?" Ultimately, that's the feeling I have as I sit here less than an hour after watching "Ice Age: The Meltdown." While box-office success is practically assured, "Ice Age: The Meltdown" is only minimally successful at recreating the energy, spirit and heart of the original film. "Ice Age: The Meltdown" is a major letdown.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic