It’s the end of the world as we know it … OK, maybe not exactly. But for the prehistoric animals left over from the first Ice Age movie, it’s at least the long-awaited end of a really cold era. Much to their delight, the ice age is nearing its conclusion, ushering in warmer climates and lush surroundings. Life in the valley is good.
Things change quickly, though, when unlikely friends Manny (the woolly mammoth), Sid (the sloth) and Diego (the saber-toothed tiger) discover that a massive glacial dam is about to break. At any time the valley—and all its inhabitants—could instantly become submerged. The group embarks on a three-day journey to the other side of the basin where there’s said to be a “ship” (a massive tree bark) that can keep them alive.
Meanwhile, Manny’s still a little depressed about losing his family to hunters and feeling like the last of his kind. But while on the adventure, he runs into another wooly mammoth—a girl wooly mammoth—named Ellie. There’s one problem, though. Having been raised by possums, Ellie thinks she’s one of them. And wouldn’t you know it, she’s just as stubborn as Manny.
In Meltdown, life-or-death situations bring out the best in each of the main characters. It takes a concerted team effort to save everyone when the group winds up stuck on a barely balanced boulder that’s about to fall thousands of feet to the ground. During the episode, Manny and Ellie apologize for overreacting to a previous conversation. Diego puts aside his fears and risks his life to save others. Likewise, Manny is determined to save Ellie and he puts aside thoughts of his own safety in the face of an oncoming flood. Ellie, meanwhile, frequently puts others first, even when her life is on the line, and she consistently shows familial kindness to her possum “brothers,” the mischievous Crash and Eddie. Sid resuscitates a comrade using mouth-to-mouth.
Despite their disagreements, Manny is determined to make the group (including Ellie and the possums) “one happy family.” He encourages Ellie to face her fears, and Sid does the same thing with Diego. Along the way, the sloth compliments Manny for being brave. Manny compliments Ellie by telling her she’s attractive and eventually supports her decision to pursue her own happiness, even if it means parting ways. “I don’t want us to be together because we have to,” he tells her. “I want us to be together because we want to.” Diego publicly affirms Sid, telling others that “his herd needs him. He made this herd. He’s the gooey stuff that holds us together. We’d be nothing without him.” The tiger shows the same soft spot when advising Manny to leave them and go after a future with Ellie. “We’ll always be here for you,” Sid adds.
Ellie’s misperception of herself causes her to neglect the strong suits of being a mammoth—foremost, that she’s one of the strongest and most powerful animals around. As a result, she’s content with “playing dead” or running away whenever a tense situation arises. She initially thinks Manny’s foolish for standing up in the face of danger, but eventually recognizes that bravery is the greater virtue.
While the movie obviously doesn’t spell it out, there are profound spiritual lessons wrapped in Ellie’s coming to grips with who she really is and the innate strength she holds. Likewise, the film also contains several strong positive messages beneath the surface about the importance of family, being content with yourself, loving others unconditionally and acting out of selflessness.
Scrat, the beloved squirrel/rat who’s forever pursuing his elusive acorn, has an experience with the afterlife in which he enters squirrel heaven. With golden acorns floating among radiant clouds and beams of light, Scrat appears to have everything he’d ever want as he passes through gold, acorn-emblazoned gates. He soon discovers the holy grail of acorns … only to meet further frustration as the ultimate prize is a finger’s length out of reach. He’s eventually pulled back to earth and life, leaving him exasperated.
After attempting a dangerous feat, Crash is seemingly knocked unconscious. While his brother urges him to stay alive (“Whatever you do, don’t go into the light!”), he eventually gets up, which cues the background gospel music and responses of “Hallelujah! It’s a miracle! I can move, I can run!” A tribe of mini-sloths first bow to a rock formation, then to Sid, whom they call the “Fire King.” To appease the rock god, they attempt to sacrifice Sid in a volcano.
Though certainly not sexualized, there’s plenty of talk of mating since Manny and Ellie seem to be the last of their kind. When Manny tells his female counterpart she’s attractive and fumbles his words about the two being the only hope for their species’ survival, Ellie accuses him of hitting on her in the name of “doing [his] duty.” Her response? “I’m not saving our species tonight or any night!” One of the possum brothers then calls Manny a pervert. The wooly mammoth also compliments Ellie on her “big butt.”
Though the action takes place offscreen, a prehistoric turtle is eaten by a menacing sea creature. That underwater beast, along with an equally threatening and hungry partner, attack our band of heroes both in and out of the water. After one nearly bites Manny, the mammoth slings him off.
In an intense scene, the traveling group ends up atop a rock formation about to crumble. Diego, Crash and Eddie all hang on for dear life as they’re suspended thousands of feet in the air. Falling rocks and chunks of ice almost crush several characters, including a young beaver. Another nail-biter finds a large herd of animals rushing for safety as a tsunami-like wave of water comes storming through the valley.
Crash convinces Manny to launch him into the air using a tree as a slingshot, despite the mammoth’s concern for it being dangerous. The exploit causes Crash to smash into a tree. The possums agitate Diego and Sid with bean shooters, which leads to them being chased.
As usual, Sid takes the most slapstick punishment through the movie. He’s used as a live piñata. Diego holds him by the neck a couple of times. Manny accidentally whacks him over the head and sends him sprawling. The mammoth also threatens to kill Sid by sitting on him. And when he’s about to be used as a sacrifice to appease a volcano, he narrowly escapes falling into a pit of burning lava.
A musical number by a flock of vultures waiting for a feast includes lines about “flesh picked off the dead ones” and “putrid meat puts us in a mood.” One scavenger speaks of eating abandoned youngsters. A bird literally gets roasted after crossing paths with a geyser, and Manny almost meets the same fate as he attempts to traverse a turbulent area.
Once again, Scrat takes the brunt of several Wile E. Coyote-like crashes, beatings and falls. When arctic piranhas threaten to steal his acorn, he goes into kung fu mode and fights off the entire pack. A baby vulture bites him, and several times he plummets from extreme heights.
Definitely the biggest letdown of Meltdown. “A–” gets trotted out three times—in reference to a wild donkey. Likewise, a mother exclaims “d–n!” while looking at—you guessed it—a natural dam made of ice. While technically accurate, both instances are played for laughs with an obvious wink-wink to both adults and kids. Other imitable language that could cause concern for parents includes repeated name-calling (“stupid,” “idiot,” “moron,” etc.) and a few crude terms (“crap,” “butt”; talk of “pee” and vomit). Manny says “darn” once, and “shut up” is uttered.
A few instances of potty humor include an animal passing gas and Sid saying that he soiled himself. Young animals disobey, abuse and pull pranks on the sloth while he looks after them. After Sid tells one upstart to do something, the youngster defiantly replies, “Make me, sloth.” Eventually, Sid tires of being disrespected and, in a cry for attention, dares to make a foolhardy leap from an extreme height.
A notorious scam artist tries to swindle the crowd in the midst of a crisis. He’s also callous when his assistant gets eaten. A handful of fat jokes veer toward the disturbing when dieting till you’re “thin as a twig” gets the subtle nod over being content with who you are. As with the first Ice Age, evolutionary references are made a couple of times. A hen-pecked husband beams with joy when his wife falls into water.
In Hollywood, you don’t mess with a good thing … you just repackage it as a sequel. So it’s no surprise that after four years and plenty of hype, Ice Age: The Meltdown would tread much of the same territory that made the original such a success. Manny, Sid and Diego are still as committed to each other as they (eventually) were before. Scrat is just as hilarious and pitiful with his acorn-seeking antics. John Leguizamo’s slothful vocal performance is yet again outstanding. And the positive messages—especially the importance of family, no matter what shape, size or form it comes in—are just as prevalent.
Despite all that, however, Meltdown seems to have more elements of a straight-to-video story rather than a blockbuster follow-up. Maybe it’s the movie’s lagging second act that’s sure to leave the kindergarten crowd squirming in their theater seats. Or the writing that, while clever, isn’t quite up to par with the first go-round. What most sets Vol. 2 apart from Vol. 1, though, is its instances of language, along with some unconstructive but begging-to-be-copied behavior. While it’s still fun and funny in parts, this sequel seems to be suffering slightly from global warming.