Cartoons have always played fast and loose with the laws of gravity, but now climatology takes a beating, too? The same characters that ushered in the Ice Age in this series’ first outing are conveniently back for the thaw. Either there was another sequel lost in the mix – Manny the Mammoth Stumbles Across the Holy Grail
, perhaps? – or Ice Age: The Meltdown
’s creators just compressed roughly 50,000 years of polar ice caps to but a blip in time. Neat trick, guys. Sketchy science aside, the original gang – depressive Manny (voiced by Romano), lisping underachiever Sid the sloth (Leguizamo), and cranky tiger Diego (Leary) – is back in action, leading a sort-of animal kingdom exodus to outrun the meltdown before it drowns them all. (Newcomer Latifah costars as a lady mammoth love interest for Manny.) Scene-stealer Scrat (voiced by the original’s director, Chris Wedge) returns, too, as a half-squirrel/half-rat concoction forever foiled in his bid to reclaim an acorn, and once again, his bit part is the best thing going on here. The voice work is still tops, and a Busby Berkeley homage with preying vultures belting out “Food Glorious Food” is a fun distraction, but neither dampens the feeling that this is an exercise in the superfluous. Much of the original film’s geniality – and all of its pro-environment stumping – has gone missing; what we have instead is a watered-down likeness that curiously turns disaster flick in its too-scary third act.