Starring: Ray Romano (I), John Leguizamo, Denis Leary
6 out of 10 stars: The caveman toddler, who was the emotional core of the original Ice Age film, isn't in Ice Age: The Meltdown. Since the little grub didn't have a single line one might expect that the filmmakers could forge ahead without him without much consequence. His absence is noticed, however, as with him has gone any particular attempt to mount any story at all leaving Meltdown as a string of sight gags and clever conceits with prehistoric animals. It makes for mild entertainment but leaves as much of an impression as a popsicle on a park bench.
It's about as sticky too. This is Dr. Phil's Ice Age, each character has a fear they must overcome, an issue they must resolve, before they can journey on together as a pack.
The principals are all back including Manny, the mammoth (voiced by Ray Ramano), Diego, the saber-tooth (Denis Leary and Sid, the Sloth (John Leguizamo). They are joined by Ellie (Queen Latifah), who is also a mammoth and her two opossum brothers (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck). "What?" you say, "A mammoth who has opossum brothers?!?!"
Why yes, Ellie, the mammoth, who may well be the last female of the species, was raised by an opossum family. She therefore hangs by her tail and looks out for her younger, rambunctious "siblings" from bigger predators, like Diego. Manny, however, wants to convince Ellie that she is really his kind and that they ought to work on repopulating. That's not their only extinction concern. Sid, Manny, and Diego have seen that the huge ice dam that surrounds their sunken valley is about to burst, releasing a torrent of water that will drown them all. They're told by a vulture that their only hope is to make it to a boat at the other end of the valley, thus giving a reason for another Pleistocene road trip.
Because there is a very long fuse on this time-bomb plot, and it doesn't go off until the very end, the filmmakers have to fill in peril, humorous vignettes, and other reasons for this film to exist in the meantime. Some of them, particularly the humorous vignettes in the middle of the running time, are clever and diverting. Sid is worshipped as a god by a tribe of pygmy sloths. A colony of vultures sing "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver! in Busby Berkley as they anticipate the demise of our heroes. It's slight stuff, but at least it works.
In the original Scrat was used to lighten the mood a bit, as the film was dark and sad at times. In this film Scrat is brought in the way they brought Eddie Murphy into Best Defense, to somehow get this deadbeat movie on its feet.
With Ice Age the animation house of Blue Sky laid out the promise of another production company like Pixar, packed with feverishly inventive people who wanted to tell an entertaining story. Several years later, with Robots and Ice Age: The Meltdown as evidence Blue Sky looks to be feverishly inventive but not particularly sure what story they want to tell or even if they want to tell one at all.