(Carlos Saldanha - 2006)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: 20th Century Fox Animation / Blu Sky Studios (USA)
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Feature film: 1080p / MPEG-2 @ 18 MBPS
Supplements: 1080p, mostly
1 disc: BD-25 single-layer
English DTS HD 5.1 Surround Master Lossless Audio
French DD 5.1 Surround
Spanish DD 5.1 Surround
English and Spanish, and closed captioned.
• Commentaries by the director & crew
• Animated shorts: No Time for Nuts and Crash & Eddie Stunts
• The Animated Director's Chair: Multi-angle scene studies
• Lost historical student films on the Ice Age period.
• Scrat's Pirahna Smackdown: Sound effects lab
• Outtake prank
• Artist Gallery Channel
• Games: The Ice Age Factoid Meltdown and Who's Your Buddy?
Standard Blu-ray case
Release Date: November 21, 2006
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Like Shrek before it, but unlike the original Ice Age movie from Blue Sky, the first several minutes is designed to make certain that six-year olds remain glued to the screen. I'm not sure what is supposed to become of them after a friendly turtle-like creature (a glyptodont) is eaten by a giant aquatic reptile, but there it is. During the first Ice Age, animals of all stripes were fleeing the area for warmer climes. Along the way, Manny the Mammoth is joined by Sid the Sloth. They rescue a human baby from a raging river and reluctantly decide to reconnect it with its family. Unbeknownst to them, the family had been attacked by a pack of Smilodon (saber-toothed cats) who have a special interest in the little one. The cats send Diego as an agent to sidetrack Manny and Sid into a deadly trap. Along the way Diego appears to weaken in his resolve to remain faithful to his fellow cats as he comes to feel he is a necessary part of this new and most unlikely Quixotic errand. Until the last moment we never know which way he'll turn. Moreover, the trio+one are marching into the coming ice age, rather than away from it. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
In the second Ice Age, animals are faced with the reverse problem: flooding from the receding and melting ice. By this time, Diego has lost his fangs, having resolved to be a part of this new family (minus the human baby, who has been reconnected with its family) AND the troop is marching away from the danger instead of into it. The suspense comes from the likelihood of drowning once the ice dam breaks behind them and a couple of rather unbelievable dinofish lurking beneath the ice (a Metriorhynchus and a Placodus, more or less) whose size varies with their prey. The Meltdown plays fast and loose with time and space. In order that the filmmakers can have a monster water slide in action, they have to somehow get Manny and Sid and Diego hundreds of feet atop an ice dam (actually, the leading edge of the glacier) – which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that there is no way up there, it being a straight drop to the bottom. Because of how easy it was to get to the top, and even though care was maintained to keep the top of the glacier above the animals from then on, I couldn't shake the feeling that they found higher ground from time to time and all they had to do was stay put.
A subtle weakness is that, unlike the first Ice Age, there are no voices for the bad guys, so we are cheated of an important dimension to add the necessary spine-tingle. In the first movie, not only was Diego given a voice, but his fuehrer, Soto, is given an even more sinister voice in the person of Goran Visnjic.
Ice Age: The Meltdown
The Score Card
The Movie : 5
The sequel starts off in an idyllic, albeit icy, scene with all sorts of prehistoric critters having a jolly time frolicking in a semi-polar area with handy little water slides, whirlpools and hot springs. All of this takes place in front of a vertical frozen sheet the size of Hoover Dam. Things take a definite turn in the Eden when Manny discovers that on the other side of this dam is a lake the size of Pennsylvania pressing against it. A little crack here and there and – oh my! The animals hear that there might be a boat (think Noah) at the other end of the valley into which they could climb while the waters rise. Beats sticking around for the thaw. (Speaking just for myself, I worried that its was a vulture that tells the animals about the boat – I mean, would you trust a vulture to provide your "only" means of escape!)
Along the way – and with frequent interludes showing Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, in relentless pursuit of his coveted acorn - Manny meets Ellie, a female Mammoth who thinks she's a possum. Why not! She and her possum brothers join the vacating animals, which makes for a new twist on the concept of what makes a family. Fold in a dramatic and climactic turn with the dinofish, and you have a movie – sort of.
Image : 9
Blue Sky animation is clean and zippy. Backgrounds are clean and, by comparison static. But the picture quality is awesome, given the relative lack of difficulty.
Audio & Music : 9/7
A word on the voices: In the absence of live actors on screen, it is all the more important that their work off-screen as the voices of the animated characters are properly – how shall I say it – characterful. They don't have to look like the characters they voice (God help us!) but they do need to be able to project the proper emotion. Let's face it, no matter how much you like Everybody Loves Raymond, Ray Romano is not a BIG name – not like Shrek's Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow and Mike Myers. That said, the talent found for the first Ice Age was, in a word, perfect. A melancholic Romano, a perseverant and irritating Leguizamo, a menacing Denis Leary, and Chris Wedge (the movie's director) as a very excitable Scrat. In the new Ice Age, the producers thought it useful to bring on some bigger guns: Queen Latifah, as Manny's love interest, brought with her the necessary sass, though I found her performance rather generic, and Jay Leno in a smaller role as Fast Tony, the sly armadillo who brings the bad news about the crack in the dam.
Empathy : 8
I think if I would have liked the story and could wrap my mind around the space warping, the excellent picture and sound would have drawn me right into the adventure.
Operations : 9
Easy to load, menus straightforward and easy to use, with clear summaries of what the features are.
Extras : 7
Scrat shorts – almost too much of a good thing. I want to leave the table wanting more. Most of the interactive stuff is oriented to children, but fun enough for the child in all of us.
July 29th, 2007
Enter the Dragon