Sid the Sloth makes a virtue of his funny motormouth ways -- and steals the show.
Forget two thumbs up. "Ice Age: The Meltdown" earns three toes up -- of the sloth variety.
This honor is awarded on behalf of Sid (again voiced by John Leguizamo), the lovably goofy sloth who steals the show right out from under the trunk of Manny, the woolly mammoth (returnee Ray Romano). Although the plot for this sequel to the 2002 animated hit has been built around Manny, Sid is the epicenter for the humor.
The theme is the same as in the first movie: Animals of different species embark on a road trip fraught with challenges that underscore putting aside differences and working together.
That's the version for the adults, anyway. The kids are seeing a slapstick adventure in which silliness rules.
The starting point for the story is the impending end of the Ice Age. The animals live in a valley, which is in imminent danger of flooding. So they set out on a journey to a distant place that promises safety.
Is it a riff on global warming? Or is it a reworking of "The Land Before Time"? Political pontificating or rip-off, it's all in the eye of the beholder.
Also back from the first movie is the cranky but sweet saber-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary). New to the team is another mammoth, Ellie (Queen Latifah), a huckster armadillo (Jay Leno) and a pair of troublemaking possums (Seann William Scott and Josh Peck). The acorn-obsessed squirrel whose story provided bookends for the first movie has become a featured player this time around, even though a couple of the cutaways to him seem forced and disjointed.
As the herd of disparate animals makes its way across the rapidly diminishing ice cap, Manny has another issue to deal with: love. But he and Ellie don't see eye to eye on that, or much of anything else.
With Manny spending so much time moping over his romantic travails, the motormouth Sid assumes the comedic burden. His over-the-top goofiness delights the youngsters, his rapid-fire one-liners crack up the adults and his unbending optimism lifts the spirits of all the other animals.
Director Carlos Saldanha is back from the first film. This time he's working off a script by Jon Vitti, who wrote for "The Simpsons" and "Saturday Night Live," which probably accounts for this movie's more smart-alecky tone.
The setup: When the ice cap starts to melt, the inhabitants set off to find higher land.
Rating: PG; a couple scenes involving sea monsters could frighten younger children.