Charm, it's one of the main elements that many 3D animated films hope to project but never quite live up to. Pixar films tend have heavy doses, skating the line of being a bit to sanguine at times. There are very few 3D animation houses that have seen the same kind of success and even fewer films that can even compete. When the first "Ice Age" film raked in around 200 million dollars and lauded a good deal of acclaim from critics. Four years later, we find "Ice Age: The Meltdown" wrangling in the same kind of box office along with nearly the same amount of praise.
The film picks up as the ice age itself is coming to an end. The formerly snow covered, rough terrain has been replaced with a brilliantly calm and serene landscape with trees, warmth and a waterslide. Finding solace in this wonderful safe haven are terrific trio
Sid (John Leguizamo), Manny (Ray Romano), Diego (Denis Leary) and a myriad of other ancient animal types. Manny is the only one who seems a bit disparaged as he contemplates being the last of his kind in the world. Sid manages to distract him by running a day care center for the place's youth along with Diego's help. Time seems to be passing with little care, paying no mind to the fact they're living in valley that's surrounded by glaciers.
However, their peaceful existence is interrupted when they discover that the ice surrounding them is starting to crack and melt. It will inevitably cause the valley to flood. Everyone learns of a sanctuary, of a "boat" that will take them all to safety if they can reach in time. So, everyone sets out in hopes of reaching their destination before the valley is flooded and all is lost. Along the way Sid, Manny and Diego run into some new friends, including Crash (Seam William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), a pair of brother possums, who wreak havoc everywhere they go. They're "sister" Ellie (Queen Latifah) is a mammoth who has been raised to believe that she is a possum.
To say the least, the group encounters a host of obstacle and mini adventures along the way. Crash and Eddie provide a nice blend of zany comical relief, which expands on the interplay between the original trio in the original film. Latifah is also nicely cast as a sometimes empty headed, though practically minded, foil for Romano's Manny. It's one of the film's strengths that the characters work and interact so nicely with one another. Chemistry is a make or break factor in these kinds of films and these guys have it in spades.
What the film also does quite well is expand on the formula from the first film and make it work a second time around. The filmmakers have added a nice balance between sticking with what worked before and breathing some new life into the material with the welcome addition of the new cast members. Not only that, but the plot is fine tuned to include a "ticking clock" where we really start to feel a sense of urgency for Manny and company.
Again providing an overly compressed screener copy from Fox, the DVD's video is lacking. This is most noticeable when any sort of action or movement takes place; a great deal of pixilation and grain seems to take over the image which is extremely noticeable here. Still the image manages to be very bright and colorful in its anamorphic widescreen presentation. It looks good but it moves poorly.
The DVD is present in a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix. This a great sounding mix overall, though not entirely immersive. It provides crisp and clear front channels when working with the dialogue and it expands into the surrounds when pumping up the music or action scenes in the film. To say the least, the audio mix is solid, making for an enjoyable experience. French and Spanish Dolby surround mixes are also included, along English and Spanish subtitles.
Fox has provided a great assortment of extras that keep the family fun going on this release. The most noteworthy is another Scrat short entitled "No Time For Nuts." It's a clever and hilarious romp through time as Scrat finds himself going through the years just to get his nut.
Next up are a pair of audio commentaries, the first from director Carlos Sandahna and the other with the film's cast and crew. Another funny piece is the inclusion of "Crash and Eddie Stunts" which is series of stunts from the notorious duo. "Animation Director's" Chair is interesting and enjoyable display of the film's storyboard to final product.
"Meet Crash and Eddie" and "Meet Ellie" are very quick EPK style informational videos that place a spotlight on the new additions. "Lost Historical Films" are some very entertaining mock-umentaries on the film's characters and even provides a good portion of facts about the animals upon which they're based.
Also included are "Scrat's Pirahna Smackdown Sound Effects Lab," "Outtake Prank," "Silly Sid," "Musical Montage," "Sid's Sing-A-Long," "Marketing the Meltdown," "Ice Age Arcade," DVD Rom Features and Fox Promos
I wouldn't call "Ice Age: The Meltdown" a better film that the original but I would place it on par with it. It offers up a nice mix of laughs, light drama and tension to make the whole thing work. It's a charming movie that fits nicely into the pantheon of 3D animated films. It's not exactly a diamond in the rough, but it's darn near close. Plus there's a lot more Scrat this time around with many funny moments abound.