The first "Ice Age" exeeded expectations, skating to a remarkable gross of nearly $200m and proving that Dreamworks and Disney were not the only studios capable of being competitive in animation. The film offered messages (the importance of friendship and, in terms of the film's popular Scrat character, never, eeevvver giving up) without seeming heavy-handed and boasted an enjoyable cast of characters.
I quite liked the first film, so while the sequel was inevitable, it was actually a rare sequel I was looking forward to. The second film opens with the lovable Scrat ("Ice Age 1" co-director Chris Wedge provides the voice again) still chasing his evasive acorn, eventually getting stuck in an ice wall that soon springs one leak - then another, and another. We're then reunited with the main characters from the first film: woolly mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo). While the creatures don't believe their rants at first, a pair of creatures (voiced by Jay Leno and "Arrested Development"'s Will Arnett) warns everyone that the ice is, in fact, melting. If the ice wall that serves as a dam for their valley breaks, then the entire valley - and everyone in it - will be wiped out.
When the three main characters see the situation above the ice wall for themselves, they decide that it's time for everyone to start the march towards safety. While Manny had been convinced that he's the only one of his kind left, along the way he finds a potential new mate in Ellie (Queen Latifah). The only problem? She's a mammoth who thinks she's a possum. That, and the fact that she travels with a pair of pesty possums named Crash (Sean William Scott) and Eddie (Josh Peck), who make life miserable - at first - for the three main characters.
The film is essentially a road picture, with the pack getting into various adventures (including facing off against a pair of nasty sea creatures) along the way. On a positive note, it's nice to have the main characters on another adventure, as - despite being very different actors - Leary, Romano and Leguizamo have great chemistry together and make a terrific trio. The three generate some laughs simply with their varied styles of delivery playing off one another.
The downside is that their adventures this time around just aren't quite as engaging as they were the first time around. The subplot with Ellie thinking that she's a possum has an emotional moment, but doesn't really generate humor when it's supposed to. While the film does hold its share of laughs (Scrat steals the show with a few priceless moments), there's nothing quite on the level of the scramble with the dodo birds in the first film.
Overall, while I didn't think "Ice Age 2" was as entertaining as the first film, it still offered fine lead performances and some fun moments.
VIDEO: The review copy that arrived offered the special features that came with the final product, but the video presentation is not the same as final copy.
SOUND: The film is offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Fox. As with the first film, "Ice Age 2"'s audio provides plenty of opportunities for surround use, from cracking ice to character sounds and more. While not consistently aggressive, this is a fun mix that I thought was immersive and enjoyable. Audio quality is terrific, with crisp, clear dialogue and punchy effects.
EXTRAS: Two audio commentaries are offered: one from director Carlos Saldanha and the other from several members of the film's animation crew. The director's commentary is enjoyable, as Saldanha chats about story issues and changes during the development of the film, technical issues and more. The only concern is that the director sometimes falls back on narrating what's currently going on in the film.
Although the second commentary involves a whole lot of people, they all appear to be recorded in the same room. While it does focus on the effects, the commentary isn't dry or too techy. The group breaks down each sequence and chats about challenges, such as finishing the film on a schedule quite a bit shorter than similar films.
"No Time For Nuts" is a short animated film starring Scrat that was done for the DVD. It shows the little critter traveling through time in order to chase after his beloved acorn. It's a very amusing and cute little tale.
"Crash and Eddie Stunts" offers up 3 short clips that have the possums acting wacky. The clips get a few mild laughs. "Meet Ellie" and "Meet Crash and Eddie" are short overviews of the second film's new additions. "The Animation Director’s Chair" offers us the chance to see 6 different scenes in various stages of completion by using the multi-angle button on the remote. "Lost Historical Films" provides some parody nature films that tell us more about the each of the main creatures/characters in the film.
"Scrat's Pirahna Smackdown Sound Effects Lab" gives viewers the chance to substitute different sound effects for this scene. "Outtake Prank" is a deleted Eddie/Crash" scene. "Silly Sid and John Leguizamo" offers a short look at developing the look of Sid, as well as the actor's performance. "Music Montage" is a short jumble of rough animation, promotional footage and outtakes set to music. "Sloth Dancing to Sid's Sing-Along" has Leguizamo teaching the moves to the dance sequence in the film. "Marketing the Meltdown" has a clip of Scrat making an appearing on "Family Guy" and several clips of Sid promoting Fox's Sunday lineup.
Rounding out the extras are four games, DVD-ROM material and promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: "Ice Age 2" isn't quite as fresh or funny as the original, but the movie still definitely has moments and a trio of good lead performances. The DVD offers excellent audio quality and a lot of extras.
The Film B