Beware: Spoilers Ahead!
The opening scene of Ice Age: The Meltdown gives us only a fleeting and preliminary reference to the last film for the benefit of those who didn’t see Ice Age, so that those of us who did could get on with the show. Like any good story, the conflict was immediately established. The ice is melting and the animals are sitting in a valley wherein one side is a wall of ice holding back a large body of water. Adding sea salt to injury, the animals tell Manfred (Manny) the mammoth he is the last of his kind.
Nicely nestled within the main theme are several engaging stories-within-the-story, giving the sequel a depth and dimension lacking in Ice Age. Unlike many badly made sequels, Ice Age: The Meltdown did not rely on Ice Age for foundation and instead gave us an original story, more of what we’d come to expect from old characters, and brought new characters to life – and into our hearts.
Manny gets everyone on their way — Diego the saber-toothed tiger, Sid the sloth, and all the other animals — but he stays behind for a few moments, suspiciously eyeing a mammoth-sized piece of ice floating around in what was everyone’s water hole. As Manny turns away to join the others, the ice turns to reveal its very suspicious contents.
On the way through the valley, Sid and Diego come upon a couple of menacing marsupials whilst elsewhere, Manny comes face-to-face-to-tree limb with the only other mammoth he’s seen since losing his family long ago – Ellie.
Once young, abandoned, and lost in a snow-covered landscape, Ellie took shelter under the same tree where a Momma opossum and her two babies resided. Presumably, the Momma raised Ellie as her own. While we meet the Momma but once, and only briefly, we see first-hand how well she instilled family loyalty within all members of her brood.
Ellie’s first appearance is as much a surprise to moviegoers as it is for Manny who, much to his chagrin, discovers she is not only the caretaker of the two troublemaking opossum tots, but thinks she is a opossum as well. Initially introduced as mischievous and comical (and they most decidedly are), we come to know and love Ellie’s brothers, Crash and Eddie, as fiercely and endearingly protective lookouts for their sister – as much as two opossums can be. Manny’s distaste for the newcomers notwithstanding, Ellie and her brothers join the migration.
Sid’s growing need for respect from his fellow blended-family members is only partially fulfilled by a tribe of much smaller sloths who snatch him away in the night and deem him King. Worship comes with a rendition of follow-the-leader that kicks the mimicking up several notches with harmony and rhythm – and a catch.
Diego, we learn, has a fear of the water, and a subsequent inability to swim. It is Sid’s unlikely teachings that ultimately saves Diego from giving in to his fears. What Diego gains from the use of his once-shrugged lessons of levity is even more unlikely. The irony is sweet.
Scrat’s numerous escapades had all the potential to be overdone, forever dooming the small, tireless creature to the land of the overexposed. Instead, superb script writing delivers one hysterical scene after another, all the while leading up to a never-before-seen side of Scrat’s personality.
Lionel Bart’s 1963 “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver Twist is given a whole new and exciting venue as the vultures of ICTM readily transform from an aloft and disturbing presence awaiting food-by-death to energetic vocalists belting out the most appropriately chosen song ever in the lively style of a Broadway musical.
After the long journey to escape the impending flood, the animals resume their daily lives – additional members and all. Manny and Elsie come to more than just an understanding and find they can live their lives happily, comforted in the knowledge that they weren’t the last of their kind after all. While not an overwhelming part of the story, one definitely comes away with a renewed and affirmed sense of what makes a family a family – and that every member is just as important, and loved, as the next.
The animation was itself a beloved character; an outstanding medium done to perfection, particularly when the wall of ice on the other end of the valley gives way, and each time Scrat finds himself above the beautiful, icy landscape. Special kudos to the animators for realizing what naturally curly hair (fur) really looks like when it’s wet.
The PG rating is appropriate and should be heeded. Young children will likely take issue with the behavior of the two viciously carnivorous sea mammals – the suspicious creatures hiding in the ice who thaw out and stalk the migration from beneath the melting surface of the migratory path. The film also contains a few words I wouldn’t want to hear small children repeat – and they would.
Having said that, the language in question is sparse, the references aren’t gratuitous, and neither in any way defines the adventure or detracts from it. While both the language and the sea mammals are reason to get a sitter, there’s no reason why children over the age of 10 and adults alike wouldn’t thoroughly enjoy the film. Not all animated films are made for small children (what non-rating-reading parent took their child to see Wizards or Heavy Metal?), and Ice Age: The Meltdown is certainly one for the older kid/adult crowd – as is clearly indicated by the rating.
Memorable dialogue and characters, outstanding animation, and the wonderful telling of a tender and truly adventurous story makes Ice Age: The Meltdown one of the best animated movies I’ve seen in a while.