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Film Review **..: As Spring Arrives, So Does ...Ice Age: The Meltdown...Hilarious Animated Comedy Boasts Famous Voices, Family-Friendly Story

By Hendrata Dharmawan

Ice Age: The Meltdown

Directed by Carlos Saldanha

Written by Peter Gaulke, Gerry Swallow

Starring Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah, Jay Leno

Rated PG

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Ice Age: The Meltdown” is a feature-length animated sequel to “Ice Age” (2002), with many returning characters: Manny the woolly mammoth, Sid the sloth, Diego the saber-toothed tiger, and the hapless acorn-hoarding squirrel Scrat. There are also some new central characters, such as a female mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah) and her two “brothers,” possums Crash and Eddie.

The movie begins where the first film left off; the animals have found a warmer paradise and discovered that the ice age is coming to an end. While everyone else is enjoying the warmer climate, Manny, Sid, and Diego discover that the rising temperature creates one problem: a huge glacial dam is about to break, putting the entire valley at risk. The only chance of survival lies at the valley’s other end, so our three heroes, along with Ellie, Crash, and Eddie, embark on another dangerous journey.

More appealing for the younger audience, “Meltdown” has a straightforward plot that essentially consists of one long journey filled with peril. Although the story is simple, it is enlivened by cleverly designed dangers that come one-by-one from unexpected sources. As in the first film, there is a seemingly unrelated side story about Scrat trying to get hold of that elusive acorn. This humorous side story, however, turns out to be central to the plot.

Unlike recent animated features that dabble in pop culture, this film doesn’t require viewers to be hip to get a good laugh. The humor mainly comes from animal silliness, especially expressed by Sid and Scrat. There is also a little romance (because Hollywood can’t do without it), but instead of showing a humanistic drama set in animal world, this movie ends up being mostly about animals trying to survive.

Compared to its predecessor, the visual elements of “Meltdown” are somewhat lacking. The underwater scenes resemble the cartoon-like environments of “Shark Tale” rather than the lush, pastel-like photorealism of “Finding Nemo.” The rock and ice textures look artificial, and even some of the physics simulations (flying and falling objects, water and tidal waves, etc.) are unconvincing. Fur and wind, however, were very well done, and reminded me of Sully’s beautiful coat in “Monsters Inc.” The facial animations of the animals, tediously key-framed by hand, convey emotions effectively.

While “Meltdown” lacks quality in many areas, it accomplishes one goal with ease: entertainment. Despite the second-class graphics and predictable plot, the movie is filled with creative humor. It’s a family film that avoids the burden of complicated plot elements. If only it had come out before spring break was almost over!