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ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN
Charming animation music
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
* * * 1/2
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
It's been a few years coming, but I guess a sequel to Ice Age was pretty inevitable. Financially successful and pretty charming, the computer-animated movie from Fox about the adventures of a sloth and a mammoth was much closer in spirit to the magic of Pixar than the cynicism of Dreamworks and will probably be delighting children for many years to come, the complete absence of pop culture references meaning it will have a decades-longer shelf life than the Shark Tales of this world. Musically, it was blessed with a fine score by David Newman, actually one of the composer's finest, but for the sequel director Chris Wedge turned to his Robots composer John Powell, who also co-wrote the music for Shrek and Chicken Run with Harry Gregson-Williams.
As is usually the case for this sort of film, the music is schizophrenic, charging around all over the place and rarely settling anywhere for more than a moment or two. Powell mitigates this to an extent by building things around an infectious main theme, heard in the opening cue and many times thereafter, which is malleable enough to be used in many different guises and provide a more coherent structure than would otherwise have been the case. It's even turned into a song, "Sid's Sing-a-Long", which is pretty nice. Inevitably, there's quite a bit of action music, obviously far more bright and breezy than most of Powell's modern action music, and a lot more orchestral, too. It's madcap stuff for the most part and enjoyable. There's also the usual share of sentimental material, which is as charming as ever.
It's all perfectly good in fact, but that doesn't prevent it being less-than-perfect overall. The problems are really twofold: first, it suffers in comparison both with Newman's score for the original Ice Age and Powell's own work on Robots, since it's simply not as impressive as either. Second, and more importantly, it's very, very rare for a composer to be able to sustain music like this that can really be listenable over an hour-long running time. And Ice Age: The Meltdown is no exception to that rule. You could extract any thirty-minute sequence and it would be enjoyable on its own terms, but music like this almost always begins to grate after half an hour, and I would have preferred the album to be trimmed somewhat. I know that programmable CD players make this perfectly easy to do by yourself, but people as lazy as me aren't likely to bother, and so aren't likely to listen to the album nearly so often as a result.
That aside, it's very enjoyable and highly-entertaining, which has become the case for virtually every new Powell score in the last few years. He's a composer on the rise, one of the most consistently-impressive working in Hollywood at the moment, and without question the finest to have emerged from the Media Ventures stable and burst out onto the scene on his own, with his own distinctive musical voice.