The original Ice Age, released in 2002, was an undemanding kid’s film: fast, fun and imaginative, it combined old-fashioned cartoon slapstick with a gently bantering script strong on family values. The sequel plays in similar fashion, warm-hearted and creative in an erratic Looney-Tunes style.
This time around, Manny the Mammoth (Ray Romano) and his pals Sid and Diego must journey to escape the imminent flooding of their valley by a cracking glacier. They’re joined in their travels by a family of possums, one of whom is in fact a confused she-Mammoth (charmingly voiced by Queen Latifah). Convinced they are the last two of the species remaining, Manny finds his heart begin to melt – but not as fast as the ice underfoot…
Without a driving plot the film is a series of episodes that become increasingly disjointed and bizarre, often reminiscent of the shorts shown before Pixar movies. One minute the herd is teetering on precarious rock-formations, the next a wake of vultures are doing a dance routine. The most fun comes courtesy of the Wile E. Coyote-esque squirrel, who returns still no closer to catching his beloved acorn. There is a lot of the kind of fast-paced action that computer animation, with its infinite capacity for fine-tuning, lends itself very well to.
The dialogue is spirited if rarely laugh-out-loud funny. With the focus on Manny’s attempts to ensure the survival of his species there is less for the other two leads to do and Denis Leary, wonderfully droll as Diego the sabre-toothed tiger, is particularly underused. A strong theme of friendship and loyalty runs throughout but thanks to Romano’s curmudgeonly Manny it remains refreshingly unsentimental.
References are made to evolution and the food chain, but this is not as intelligent a script as Toy Story 2 or The Incredibles, and few jokes will pass kids by. Surprisingly, for a film about extinction and flooding caused by global warming, there’s no ecological message standing out.
In short, it’s less a sequel and more a remake of the first Ice Age, with less plot and more clowning around. The only change is the quality of visuals: the animals now have thick, deep fur that even becomes glossy when wet, and the final flood of photorealistic water boasts glorious refraction effects. Director Carlos Saldanha takes full advantage of current technology to render this lush, wintery world as busily as possible, full of plants and strange creatures.
At a time with little in the cinema for kids, especially for those tired of superhero violence, Ice Age 2 will come as a welcome relief. Children will enjoy the pace and lively characters, and parents can rest assured that the film’s heart is in the right place, despite Diego’s frequent threats to eat his friend Sid. Lightweight fun.