Thursday, April 20, 2006

Movie Review: Ice Age: The Meltdown

First the Disclaimer: Last Saturday (April 15) was Hubs' birthday. Since it was pouring outside, we decided to forego working on our personal ark and go to a movie. He picked this one. We went to the matinee, just the two of us, and everyone else in the area who wanted to get out of the house. Since Ice Age is rated "G," that meant there were a lot of families with children. Lots of children, including young children.

Having been there myself, I felt a lot of sympathy for the parents. And I completely understand that many children, used to watching videos of movies at home, don't understand the concept of silence while at the theater. DD#2 has the same problem, in fact. However, watching a movie with a toddler screaming in the background does not enhance the experience and may prejudice my review.

By the way, I've never seen the first Ice Age movie. But it didn't take me long to pick up the nuances of the characters.

Sid (voiced by a John Leguizamo, who I didn't recognize) is a Giant Sloth who is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. He is currently running a camp for young critters at the foot of a glacier.

Manny (voiced by Ray Romano) is a Woolly Mammoth. If you've ever seen Everybody Loves Raymond or Mooseport, you know this character. Steady, steadfast, put-upon. Resigned to rescue everyone.

Diego (voiced by Dennis Leary) is a Sabre-Toothed Tiger. Aloof, proud, his answer to everything is to threaten to eat it. However, he has a secret fear hiding beneath his swaggering self-confidence.

And then there is Scrat, a squirrel-rat who is not connected with the three heroes, but whose obsession with an acorn runs through the movie. In Scouts, this would be called a "run on" skit: you run on the stage, do your schtick, then run off. A few minutes later, you run on again, do the next bit, run off. This continues until you get to the punch line. Run ons can be very effective and very funny. This one is. Sort of. Sometimes.

A vulture comes down to the happy collection of prehistoric animals and tells them the glacier is melting, releasing a flood of water collected behind it. Their only chance of survival is to flee to the other end of the valley where there is an ark that will save them. Some believe; some don't. Our intrepid trio manages to convince the group and they all head off.

Along the way there is some discussion about Manny being the last mammoth. He scoffs at the idea and is reminded of the dinosaurs. Then he meets Ele (voiced by Queen Latifah). Ele is, in fact, a female mammoth. Problem is, she was raised by possums and she thinks she is one of them.

Can Manny convince Ele she is really a mammoth? Will Diego eat the two possums that Ele thinks of as her brothers? Will Sid ever say anything sensible? Will the animals make it to the ark in time? Will Manny and Ele save mammoths from extinction? Will the warnings about global warming and extinction be emphasized? Will Noah and God be mentioned along with the ark?

C'mon, this is a kids' movie, by Twentieth Century Fox, no less. What do you think?

There is a great sequence where the vultures do a musical routine to the tune of "Food, Glorious Food" (from Oliver!) that was quite clever. Except that most of the audience didn't get it.

The computer animation was quite good, especially the fur of the animals which moved synchronously (is that a word?) along with the way the different animals moved. But when, oh when, are movie studios going to learn what Disney and Pixar seem to have mastered: story first, effects later, moral last. The storytelling was very uneven, especially for a movie aimed at younger kids. "Tweens" might enjoy some of it, especially the clever banter among the characters, even as they find the story itself "lame." The Incredibles was a much better family movie, one that everyone could (and in my house, did) enjoy.

On the March Hare scale: 2 out of 5 Golden Tickets.