MOVIE REVIEW- Not so cool: 'Ice Age' redux leaves viewers cold

Now we know how the mammoths died: sequelitis killed them.

Ice Age: The Meltdown (the "2" was removed from the title a few weeks ago, perhaps to make it sound less like a sequel) is two movies in one, with the wrong one given precedence. Like the 2002 original, the movie is stolen by Scrat, a squirrel whose attempts to snare acorns end in classic cartoon disasters, like Tom trying to catch Jerry, Wile E. Coyote's efforts to grab the Road Runner, and Elmer Fudd hunting that wascally wabbit.

These little episodes pop up every 10 minutes or so, as if to mark the place to insert commercial breaks. Unlike the first picture, the story between Scrat's interruptions deserves to be interrupted.

Maybe the novelty is gone and maybe an opportunity was missed to educate young viewers about the danger of global warming. The setting is the end of the Ice Age (though surely not of the series), when the first global warming melted the icecaps; but while there's some danger of flooding, it looks as if our heroes will be better off at the end in a temperate climate.

It's old news that Manny the Mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Diego the Saber-tooth Tiger (Denis Leary) have become a chosen family for each other. Manny is still lonely because he hasn't seen another mammoth in eons. He doesn't like to be reminded that he's the last of his race.

Along comes Fast Tony (Jay Leno) predicting "intense flooding, followed by the end of the world." Manny doesn't believe it until he sees for himself: "The dam's gonna bust. The whole valley's gonna flood!" (Is the sky falling too? Is this the sequel to "Chicken Little"?) A vulture confirms, based on aerial reconnaissance.

So the migration begins, with Sid encouraging Diego to get over his fear of water because there's going to be a lot of it. Soon they encounter what looks like another mammoth, but Ellie (Queen Latifah) thinks she's a possum because she was raised by a family of possums. Once she comes out as a mammoth (after Manny preaches her a "Be who you are" sermon), Manny gets down to business, talking about their "opportunity to save our species."

"How we gonna do that?" Ellie asks skeptically. She might add, "in a PG movie."

The trip is peppered with dangerous sea creatures, jokes about bodily functions ("Don't that (fart) put the 'stink' in 'extinction'?"), Sid and Diego playing Whack-a-Mole with possums, and a production number to "Food, Glorious Food" from Oliver. If the last were done by buzzards instead of vultures, it could be choreographed by Buzz Berkeley.

In the end, Manny has his Ellie, leaving Sid and Diego as "two bachelors knockin' about in the wild." It sounds like a lead-in to Ice Age 3: Brokeback Iceberg.

I thought I remembered Ice Age, to which I gave ***, being a better piece of computer animation than this; but checking out a few minutes on television, the quality appears to be about the same. Most of the attention went into the animals, with several people credited with working on "Fur and Feathers." The water sometimes looks like water, but the ice rarely looks like ice and the rocks look like drawings of rocks.

Maybe Sid overstates the case when he evaluates their crumbling home, "This whole thing's a piece of junk," but Ice Age: The Meltdown can't stand up to its predecessor any more than thin ice can stand up to the sun.

Hooray for Scrat! For the rest, drat!