There’s a riveting scene in “Ice Age: The Meltdown” in which the insipid sloth Sid (voiced by John Leguizamo, “Land of the Dead”) plummets from the status of a worshipped fire god to that of a sacrificial lamb. Pondering his new situation, he succinctly declares, “This is either really good or really bad.”

Morgan Morel
Life would be so much cooler if mammoths were still around . (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

How strangely perceptive of the film itself.

Like its warmly received predecessor, the sequel to “Ice Age” revolves around a journey of friendship in a tumultuous era. This time, though, the ice is rapidly melting and Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano, TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and his clan of dysfunctional companions must head toward the safety of a giant ark-like tree, lest they all drown and become (gasp!) extinct.

Brace yourselves, kiddies, this film has it all: family-friendly comedy, action-packed scenes involving some massive, hideous sea creatures, a sweet moral of friendship and even a mammoth love interest named Ellie (Queen Latifah, “Last Holiday”), who fervently believes herself to be an opossum. The plot is innocent and captivating, and the film’s sophisticated animation is seamless enough to make Manny’s drenched fur appear strikingly realistic.

The film plays to its young audience admirably without neglecting the rightful owner of daddy’s plastic. Kids will squeal when Manny admits that a burro is really a “wild ass” to a group of baby animals, yet adults will also chuckle when one tot interrupts Manny’s sentence with the random exclamation of “Sometimes, I throw up!”

So what’s wrong? For one, the film delights in glorifying the stereotypes that some deem deathly poisonous to all mankind. By placing Ellie in a dangerous situation after she stubbornly chooses to disobey Manny, the audience is subtly told that females always need rescuing.

It’s also perfectly OK, in the film’s world, to beat a stupid person (a.k.a. Sid) as long as he’s too many apples short of a bushel to take offense. Imagine this message imprinted on a gaggle of preschoolers with twigs and plastic rakes at their disposal.

But perhaps they’re too young to be bothered by these subliminal impressions. Even the scariest of dangers, in all their PG glory, are never insurmountable. Consider the con-man armadillo Fast Tony (Jay Leno, TV’s “The Tonight Show”). Upon the discovery of his turtle friend’s mysteriously empty shell, Tony sheds no tears and instead hawks the now-vacant shell as a convenient “mobile home.” Tragedy is smoothly bypassed with the lure of a spacious interior.

Despite its dependence on stereotypical personalities, “Ice Age: The Meltdown” remains a lovable film that beckons adults into a world where farting is still hilarious and heaven’s just one big acorn. The film boils down to the fact that once any disbelief has been successfully suspended, it’s all too easy to get lost in a theater full of the giddy squeals of childish laughter.

Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ice Age: The Meltdown
At the Showcase and Quality 16
20th Century Fox

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