[box cover]

Ice Age: The Meltdown

While not quite as fresh, charming, or focused as its predecessor, Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) is still a fine way to spend an hour and a half — especially if you're a Scrat fan. The single-minded, acorn-obsessed prehistoric rodent is back for more punishment, although this time he gets to kick a little butt, too, whaling on a group of razor-toothed piranhas who try to steal his precious nut. Those piranhas, along with a few larger, more-menacing finned beasties, are the closest thing the second film has to a villain, which is one of its weak points. Unlike in the first movie, in which unlikely trio Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) had a clear and immediate goal — reunite a lost human baby with his tribe while steering clear of a menacing tiger baddie — The Meltdown has a more meandering storyline. Yes, the gigantic ice dams are breaking up, threatening the animals' home valley with inundation, but, until almost the very end, there's a noticeable lack of urgency about the need to flee. Instead, Manny, Sid, and Diego take their time, getting distracted by the antics of a pair of amped-up possum brothers and their adopted sister, a female mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah) who believes that she's a possum, too. While Ellie and Manny butt heads (having feared that he was the last of the mammoths, he's thrilled to have found her but frustrated by her identity issues), Diego tries to conquer his fear of water, and, in one of the movie's most entertaining sequences, Sid encounters a group of worshipful mini-sloths. It's all sure to delight the kids, and most parents should be pleasantly entertained as well, even if the beautiful animation (Scrat's tail looks soft and furry enough to touch, and the water positively ripples) is a bit more impressive than the story this time around.

*          *          *

Fox brings The Meltdown to DVD on a disc that, while certainly packed with extras, also isn't quite as impressive as the original's two-disc special edition. The movie itself looks and sounds gorgeous; the anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) is strong, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clear (other audio options include French and Spanish 2.0 Surround tracks and English and Spanish subtitles). The Scrat fans mentioned above will be delighted with the all-new short "No Time for Nuts," which is fast-paced and funny. Other extras include two commentary tracks (one by director Carlos Saldanha, the other by a group of 12 crew members), three bonus stunts by possum duo Crash and Eddie (plus one outtake prank), an animation compare-and-contrast feature that shows five different scenes in various stages of production (storyboard, animation, etc.), brief featurettes introducing the sequel's new characters, a set of six "lost historical films" that pair "educational" narration about the movie's different creatures with clips from the film, a sound-effects lab that lets you view Scrat's piranha-confrontation scene with five different audio tracks (animal noises, car noises, classic cartoon sounds, human noises, and musical instruments), a seven-minute featurette about Sid, a very brief "music montage" that serves as a mini blooper reel, a featurette in which Leguizamo teaches viewers how to do Sid's dance from the mini-sloth sequence, clips from Fox's TV promotional stunts (Scrat's appearance on The Family Guy, Sid hosting Fox Animation Domination), DVD-ROM features, Fox promos (including a peek at the upcoming Simpsons movie), and four unimpressive interactive games in the "Ice Age Arcade." Obviously, there are a lot of features here, but none of them are all that substantive, and the games are, frankly, lame. "Factoid Meltdown" asks obscure, quantitative trivia questions ("How many times is Sid's name mentioned?") that essentially force players to go back into the movie to find the answers (or keep guessing randomly until they get lucky); "Sid's Soccer Challenge" is beyond basic when you figure out how to cheat the Dodo goalie; the "Who's Your Buddy?" personality quiz is a transparent character-match-up exercise; and the "Video Game Memory Challenge" is a blatant plug for the tie-in game. Rather than waste your time playing any of them, go back and watch the first movie again. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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