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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Ice Age: The Meltdown (Blu-ray)
Ice Age: The Meltdown (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG // November 21, 2006 // Region A
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted November 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Movie:

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.

Manny 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.

On 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 DVD:


Video:

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 minor.

Audio:

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.

Extras:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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 disc.

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