The original Ice Age was a surprise hit for me. I was sure
that it would be another dud animated movie. For a while it seemed
that if your name wasn't Pixar that it was impossible to make a good animated
feature. Even Disney, the company that invented the animated feature,
had a string of flops with Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet,
and Brother Bear all being less than spectacular. (Okay,
I'm not listing Lilo and Stitch which was excellent.) So I
didn't have my hopes up when I first saw Ice Age and I was pleasantly
surprised. The movie had a good, solid story and a lot of laughs.
It was the type of family friendly movie that both kids and adults can
enjoy, something that's all too rare nowadays. Four years later,
Fox went back to the characters and made a sequel: Ice Age the
Meltdown. While this second film isn't quite as good as the original
(how many sequels are?) it still has a good amount of charm and looks wonderful
on this Blu-ray disc.
the Mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the
Saber-tooth Tiger (Denis Leary) are all back again for another adventure.
Some time has passed since the first film, apparently several thousands
of years since the Ice Age that was starting in the first film is now coming
to an end, and the ice is starting to melt. The trio, along with
many other animals, are living in a huge valley that is capped by a huge
ice dam. When the ice behind the dam melts it's only a matter of
time, three days to be exact, until the dam breaks and the valley floods.
If they want to survive, all of the animals have to get to high ground
and that means a few days walk.
Along the way Manny gets depressed since rumor has it that he's the
last mammoth. Things pick up for him when he runs into another of
his race, a beautiful lady mammoth, Ellie (Queen Latifah). The only
problem is that she was raised by a family of possums, and she thinks she's
a marsupial too. Ellie, along with her two possum brothers, Crash
(Sean William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck) join Manny and the group to
try to escape the coming flood.
This was a funny film that both my children and I enjoyed, but it wasn't
without its flaws. On the good side, there film was consistently
funny, with jokes and gags coming at regular intervals so the movie never
become boring or slow. The characters have the same personalities
that they had the first time around too; Manny is the loner, Sid is annoying,
and Diego is the tough silent predator. The new characters
are cute too. The possum twins, sort of pre-historical versions of
Bart Simpson, are the comic reliefs who steal the show.
the down side, this time around the plot is much simpler and a bit too
thin. A lot of the movie feels like filler; funny filler but padding
none the less. Scrat, the squirrel who is always trying to get an
acorn, is given much more screen time in this film and while his exploits
are generally humorous none of his adventures advance the plot at all.
There were several other scenes, the mini-sloths that started worshiping
Sid and the singing vultures to name only two, which have nothing to do
with the rest of the movie. I think the main problem is the lack
of a meaty. The first movie had the animals trying to return the
human child to his tribe, the danger of the saber-tooth tigers waiting
to ambush them, and the three main characters learning to depend on each
other. This film only has the danger of the advancing water.
Manny's search for another mammoth is solved early on, and the water predators
aren't really a threat for most of the movie. If they could have
created another subplot or two this movie would have been much stronger.
As it is, the Meltdown is a good family movie that doesn't quite live up
to the standard that was set by its predecessor.
The 1.85:1 HD image was compressed using the MPEG2 codec and looks very
good. Now animation usually looks better than real people, the picture
is just much more simple and without all of those many shades and awkward
contours that real life gives us. Even so, I was very pleased with
the way this film looked. The colors were simply magnificent; rich,
vibrant and deep. They really jumped out at you. The picture
also had a lot of 3D effects with the main characters coming off the screen.
Of course the detail level was great. You can easily make out the
individual hairs on Diego's hide and the texture of the ice itself.
Not everything was perfect though. There was a fair amount of
posterization present in the film, where colors don't transition from one
shade to another evenly. When the camera pans across the night sky
as it does several times in the film, bands of color are clearly evident,
which was a little surprising. Given that this film was done digitally,
I thought they would have been able to fix that in postproduction.
There is also a tiny bit of grain in just a couple of scenes, but it was
This movie comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD lossless audio track in English as
well as DD 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish. I thought it was a little
odd that they included a DTS-HD audio track as the only English choice
since neither the Samsung BD player nor the Panasonic one can decode the
signal. (I'm not aware of any receivers that decode that format either,
but I could be mistaken about that.) In any case when that selection
is chosen the audio plays as a regular DTS track which sounds very good.
The range is excellent with the low bass getting a workout when the ice
dam breaks up and the high pitches of some of the animals coming through
loud and clear. The full soundstage is used to good effect, and the
panning is very effective in several scenes. Even without access
to the lossless audio, I was very impressed. There are subtitles
in English and Spanish.
There are a good number of extras included with this disc. First
off is an animated short, No Time for Nuts featuring Scrat the squirrel.
This is a very funny cartoon that has Scrat finding an acorn and a small
time machine. Touching the device sends the poor mammal flying through
the ages where the nut is always just out of his reach. A cleaver
short that had a lot of laughs.
Crash and Eddie get a moment in the sun with Stunts and Outtakes,
four funny clips that were cut from the movie. These, as well as
the Scrat short are presented in 1080p high definition.
For those interested in how the movie was made, there are a couple of
bonus features that will answer a lot of questions. The Animation
Director's Chair takes six scenes and presents them at four different
stages of development. There's the storyboard, layout, animation
and final rendering. Viewers can switch between stages with the remote
and see how the scene evolved. In a similar vein, Scrat's Piranha
Smackdown Soundeffects Lab takes a single scene that has no dialog
and shows how it would play if different sound effects were used.
You can screen the segment with animal noises, car sounds, classic cartoon
sound effects, human noises or musical instruments. This is great
at illustrating how important sound effects are and how they shape a scene.
Lost Historical Films are black and white 'school movies' that
use clips from the film to give some true nature facts about the animals
that are portrayed. These were okay but nothing special. The
two games that are included leave a bit to be desired. One is a trivia
game that has impossibly hard questions. "How many times is Sid's
name used in the movie?" A lot of questions like that. Luckily
you get as many guesses as you need. The quiz is broken into three
sections and rather long. After getting to the third section the
disc locked up after I selected the wrong answer and I had to cycle the
power. I wasn't about to go through the 20 or so questions that I'd
already answered again, so I have no idea what awaits the winners.
I had more stick-to-itness on the Who's Your Buddy quiz. After
answering another rather long series of questions, including many that
are audio (eg. "Which sound is the scariest?"), I discovered that my buddy
is Manny. Oh joy.
There is a series of pop-up drawings and sketches that viewers can have
appear while the movie is playing by selecting the Artist Gallery Channel.
Someone who is more into the creation aspect of animation may find this
more entertaining than I did. I found it pretty useless, but then
again seeing early takes on the characters isn't something that I'd normally
get excited about.
Of course it wouldn't be a full disc without a commentary track, and
this one boasts two; one with the director Carlos Saldanha and a second
one with a large number of the crew. There are also a few trailers
including a rough early glimpse at the Simpson's movie due out during the
summer of 2007.
I enjoyed Ice Age: the Meltdown, but not as much as the
first film. There were good jokes throughout the movie, but it seemed
that too much of the film was just padding and scenes that didn't advance
the plot. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent in both sound and
video quality though, and that makes it easy to recommend this disc.
Note: The images used in this review are not taken from the Blu-ray