Directed by: Carlos Saldanha
Starring: John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, Dennis Leary, Queen Latifah
Adults should not judge a movie made for kids unless they see it with kids. Ice Age: Meltdown is a case in point. It's received a tepid response from many movie reviewers. Don't believe them -- the movie is terrific.
If you're an unaccompanied adult, you might assume that, because the movie doesn't move you, kids won't like it. Wrong. Kids are animation experts. They're so used to the language of animation that they're empowered by an ability to anticipate what's going to happen. They know that movie buddies are going to risk their lives for one another. That a boy animal and a girl animal are going to entwine their tales and become a daddy and a mommy. That the best ideas about life are in songs you can sing in the bathtub. They know that all kinds of dangers lurk on the big screen -- gloating vultures, fierce fish monsters, humungous avalanches and Katrina-like flooding, to name a few -- but that they never last long enough to be really scary. Most importantly, kids know what's really funny, like big furry butts swaying down a jungle lane, squirrels getting squished, animals facing extinction and, oh yes, global warming.
Sid the Sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), Manny the mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), and Diego the saber-tooth tiger (voice of Dennis Leary) are together again, outcasts buddying up to form their own warm-fuzzy "herd." This time there are no human infants needing rescue to unite them, but now there's an equally fearsome trouble: A sudden rise in temperature is thawing the glaciers and threatens to drown every creature in the valley. "We're in a melting world and going to have to face it sooner or later," Sid says gloomily.
Their only hope is to reach the boat (the Ark?) that is waiting to float every animal away to dry ground. The earth beneath their feet, once solid with lovely, deep snow, is now horribly unstable, flaming with lava flows, erupting into geysers and breaking into death-dealing chasms. A stranger joins the trio -- a tart-tongued girly mammoth (voice of Queen Latifah), who hilariously thinks she's an opossum (like her adopted brothers) and is wondrously proud of her queen-size behind. As the group treads across the treacherous valley floor, the neurotic squirrel Scat continues to chase his precious quarry, from the depths of the frozen sea to the heights of acorn heaven.
Ice Age: The Meltdown is not as mythic as Finding Nemo (2003), nor as dramatic as Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002). But it's clever, fun and feel-good, and you definitely get your money's worth. Take a kid to see it if you can. If not, go to an early afternoon, tot-friendly screening and let the ring of high-pitched squealing remind you of how much fun small, silly things used to be. Rated PG for some mild language and innuendo.
-- reviewed by Marcianne Miller