Since the success of the likes of Toy Story and Shrek, computer-animated movies have become a regular fixture of the school holiday cinema listings.
From the apparent decline of Hollywood animation in the 1980s and early 1990s, new technologies have revitalised the art of feature-length cartoons, and the constant desire of parents world-wide to find something to keep their kids occupied has ensured that there is big money in the genre.
With the release of 2002’s Ice Age, 20th Century Fox showed that it was no longer just the old master Disney or the young upstarts of Pixar and Dreamworks who could pull it off.
The first Ice Age movie was a nicely traditional but highly entertaining affirmation of the idea that very different people (or, in this case, animals) can band together and become friends given the right motivation, backed up with a lot of silly jokes. While not quite managing the cross-age appeal of a Shrek, the first Ice Age nonetheless managed to pitch its humour at just the right level to be enjoyed by both children and adults in a silly, hardly overly serious kind of a way. At first glance the sequel could look a lot like a new version of the classic tale of rabbit migration that is Watership Down – only with added slapstick comedy and long-extinct mammals.
Considering the success of the first film, it seems rather odd that Fox appear to have decided not to go for the usual film trilogy with what was shaping up to be a nice little franchise. They could easily have got a third film out of it, and yet here the plot revolves around the Ice Age of the title coming to an end, which would make naming any subsequent sequel a bit tricky. No Longer An Ice Age doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, plus it would logically see at least three of the four main characters quickly become extinct, which would hardly be the sort of thing you’d expect in a children’s film. Then again, as the first film saw them facing the onset of an Ice Age, it would appear that time works rather differently for our heroes. To see both the beginning and the end of one of those notorious global freezes, they would each have to live to be several tens of thousands of years old.
In any case, faced with melting glaciers and growing streams of water, the three mismatched buddies of the first movie come to realise that the streams will soon become rivers, the rivers become floods, and their home will soon be destroyed. As with Watership Down, the threat of destruction means that a new home will have to be found – a perfect excuse for all sorts of capers.
Capers and jokes are what make these sorts of movies, and here there are again plenty to keep children of all ages amused for most of the duration. While again not holding the crossover appeal of some other computer animated films, Ice Age 2 is still far from being the kind of dud which these days seems all too common in the genre. The kids will love it, and the grown-ups won’t find it anywhere near as painful as most of the movies they find themselves dragged to these days. Which can only count as a good thing.