Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Adam melts over Ice Age 2
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown is a rarity. It's a sequel that's every bit as good as the original.
It's not to say that it's The Godfather II or anything earth-shaking. The first Ice Age was a sweet little movie about the strength of family. It had its moments, most of which were provided by a strange little critter called Scrat, who was constantly trying to get an elusive acorn. Oddly, then, as now, the Scrat segments had nothing to do with the plot of the movie. Scrat is still totally hilarious, but they played the best segments in their entirety in the trailers. Not that I wasn't still laughing when Scrat goes all Bruce Lee on a school of piranhas...but I'd seen it months ago.
Like the original, it has an affirming message about the family unit and taking care of one's own. However, the sequel also decides to delve into identity issues.
Ice Age 2: The Meltdown actually comes close to being a better film than the first, though it stumbles occasionally and once or twice loses track that it's a family movie with some questionable language and humor.
The film calls on the three mismatched characters from the first (Manny the mammoth [Ray Romano], Sid the giant sloth [John Leguizamo] and Diego the saber-tooth tiger [Denis Leary]) to learn more lessons about themselves than the first time around.
The trio have found themselves the caretakers of a large herd of assorted animals who live a mostly idyllic life in a quiet valley surrounded by the ice. When they find out that the ice is melting and the valley will flood, they begin a desperate march out of the valley to save their herd. They're dogged along the way by a couple of aquatic predators who might be too scary for small children, and Manny is beset by concerns that he might in fact be the last of his species. Everyone keeps telling him so, how should he know better?
Along the way, they meet two daredevil possum Crash and Eddie (Sean William Scott and Josh Peck) and their "sister" Ellie (Queen Latifa) who is actually a mammoth. Who thinks she's a possum. Talk about issues.
There is also a flock of vultures watching their every move. Seems the smell of death is in the air. Or is that just gas?
Sid might be the comic relief (though all of the best laughs again go to Scrat, who had me in tears a couple of times), but he truly is the impetus for the development the other characters go through. Mistaken or not, he pushes Manny and Ellie together. He also encourages Diego to conquer his fears and insecurities.
The filmmakers lean toward the Disney school of animated features this time around and include two Busby Berkeley-esque musical numbers. The vultures run down a list of their favorite carrion via song, and Sid has an odd musical encounter with a tribe of smaller sloth who ape his every move.
Romano gets to stretch a bit, wooing Ellie and playing the hero. It's not the thing you expect from the ho-hum comedian and sitcom star. Thanks to animation, he gets to explore a character that's very much not him.
Leary barely has anything to do (I'd say the same for Leguizamo, but the mini-sloth sequence made up for his lack or real story time.), but has a good arc as he confronts the fact that he's about to be surrounded by, and possibly swallowed by his fear. Diego sees fear as the reaction of prey, and he's dumbfounded that it could happen to him.
The rest of the cast is more than adequate, includuing Latifa, Scott and Jay Leno as a huckster armadillo named Fast Tony. Latifa is an affable foil to Romano's dour mammoth, or to quote Sid "She's tons of fun and you're no fun. She...completes you."
While the journey the trio is on this time around doesn't seem as pressing as returning the human child to his tribe in the original, the threat they're facing is even more daunting than a pack of sabers. There's a bit of epic action at the end to pay off the peril they were fleeing, and some genuinely thrilling moments as the animals risk everything to save each other.
Maybe I'm reacting better to Ice Age 2 than I would have if I hadn't seen Basic Instinct 2 a day before. But, much as I might like a good crappy movie now and again, I really do go to enjoy myself with something of a better quality. And thankfully, Ice Age 2 was definitely the palate cleanser my cinematic tastebuds needed.


Byron said...

you are a total flamer for going to see this movie in the theater. flamer.

Adam said...

Does that mean you're getting the toaster for converting me?