Thursday, 30 March 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)

More action and laughs for the kids than the first Ice Age. Everyone else: prepare to have your brain electronically simplified.

Three years ago, the march of the glaciers forced a herd of assorted animals to trudge southwards in Ice Age. Presumably that’s more than enough time for that ice age to end. In this sequel, Manny the mammoth, Sid the sloth, and Diego the Tiger begin another long journey to escape the flood that will most certainly happen when the glaciers melt.

The minor plot involves Manny, who was isolated from his mammoth herd in the previous movie. The long period spent at their isolated hideaway leads everyone to believe Manny is the last of his species. The mad rush towards higher ground offers Manny some reprieve from his depression as the trio chance upon a team of two opossums (Josh Leary and Sean William Scott) and Ellie, a female mammoth (Queen Latifah) who thinks she’s a opossum.

Will the herd of animals survive the flood? Will Manny manage to convince Ellie to repopulate the earth with mammoths? Will Scrat (yes, the squirrel rat is back as well) manage to get his acorn (and yes, the acorn is back as well) this time?

The high point of this Ice Age sequel: the animation is so energetic that hardly a second goes by without some object, or some character flying from one end of the screen to the other. It will captivate viewers below 6 years old, apparently the target audience of this movie. Most of the jokes have a strong visual element that will send tots squealing with laughter in the cinema.

What can the adults in the audience look forward to? Between the first and second Ice Age titles, all the dark humour and tension in the script seem to have gone out of the window. The first movie featured a tiger who was out to eat up his travelling companions, as well as digs at the ugly side of evolution (a la Ripley’s discovery of her earlier prototypes in Alien Resurrection). In the reprise, all characters are now cutesified, and the tension that made adults take an interest in the group are gone. The new, watered-down dialogue seems to be transplanted from a generic comedy, and these verbal cuts and parries are a far cry from the wordplay of the original movie.

Then, there is the bizarre concept of the sequel. The marketing division of 20th Century Fox understandably wanted to make a follow-up to the profitable Ice Age. The target audience of the first film are now in their early tweens… but the second film is written for children below 6 – surely a sequel ought to be pitched towards its original fans? This is a fair warning to the kids who liked the first movie: if you’ve grown up slightly, this movie isn’t as funny as you’d expect.

It is true that in the past decade since Pixar, Dreamworks and 20th Century Fox entered the animation fray, cartoons have been geared slightly more towards an adult sensibility. The unmitigated juvenility of Ice Age: The Meltdown bucks against the current trend, as well as the original movie. There’s a piece of advice that movie reviewers give, but usually for summer action movies – leave your brains at the door when you enter the cinema, sit back, and just enjoy the show. You’ll just need to take this animation on its own terms and let yourself be entertained.

First published in incinemas on 30 March 2006

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