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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE MELTDOWN (article first published : 2006-04-4)

Ice Age: The Meltdown is the glossy sequel to Ice Age, the 2002 success that was Oscar-nominated for best animated feature. The Meltdown keeps the customers satisfied in its continuation of the adventures of three prehistoric pals - woolly mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), dry-witted sabre tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and comical, lisping sloth Sid (John Leguizamo).

When we meet them again now, global warming has meant it's time for them and their fellow furry colleagues to kiss their ice goodbye to usher in a new world. The problem, however, is that our creature friends live in a valley surrounded by towering glaciers and it becomes a race against time for them to hit the road and escape the big thaw and inevitable flooding.

Against this scenario, and through the introduction of a number of new characters, director Carlos Saldanha crafts an enjoyable fluid romp which is not only flecked with witty moments and fun sight gags, but also weaves a subplot around each of the three principal characters.

Manny, for instance, is facing the fact that he could be the last of his species, while Diego harbours a fear of water that could cost him his life. And Sid? That lovable rascal, desperately craving being taken seriously, faces being idolised by critturs that are miniature versions of himself.

New characters include a green-eyed mammoth called Ellie which, voiced by Queen Latifah, thinks she is a possum and shares a tree home with her two mischievous possum "brothers", Crash (Seann William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck). Then we get a con artist armadillo, Fast Tony (Jay Leno), who is the first to sound the alarm about global warming and tries to sell bamboo shoots as breathing apparatus to anyone who will listen.

As with the first film, however, the best character is the scrawny Scrat, the taciturn and tenacious squirrel-rat thingamajig that continues to spend all its time climbing glaciers to find and hold on to an acorn that keeps slipping from its paws. Director Saldanha has wisely given the character a lot more screen time in the sequel and audience response when Scrat appears, proves that he's the star here and that a spinoff movie would be sure to pull a good crowd.

Ice Age: The Meltdown is flecked with other stand-out moments, among them a sequence involving vultures singing a lyrically reworked Food, Glorious Food from Oliver! that is a mini classic in its own right.

The vultures are also responsible for one of the movie's funniest lines. As they fly over fleeing animals, one announces, loudly and clearly: "Do not leave your children unattended. Unattended children will be eaten". Fun holiday fare. Treat yourself and the kids! Billy Suter.




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