Ice Age 2: The Meltdown: PICK


The Green Mile: PASS


Forbidden Planet: PICK


Content advisory:

Ice Age 2: Moderate cartoon menace and combat; flatulence humor; mild innuendo. Family viewing. The Green Mile: Multiple executions by electric chair; profanity; violence; recurring urination. Adults. Forbidden Planet: Sci-fi and action violence and menace; mild sensuality. Teens and up.

Blue Sky Studios’ original Ice Age has aged well. The three-way dynamic of Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the sabertooth (Denis Leary) still charms, aided by slapstick interludes with Scrat the saber-squirrel and his beloved, elusive acorn. Technically, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (new on DVD this week) is light-years ahead of its predecessor. Fur looks furrier, ice looks icier, and the water looks real enough to splash in. Alas, the bickering heroes have more or less accepted each other — and just aren’t funny any more.

There’s little juice in the plot, which involves an impending flood and a female mammoth named Ellie (Queen Latifah). This puts a lot of pressure on Scrat — and the scene-stealing squirrel comes through brilliantly, taking his Buster Keaton routine to sublimely creative heights far beyond earlier appearances. Other parts are also more than the whole. A gonzo musical sequence with vultures is much funnier than the original’s survivalist dodos. Sid has a moment to shine in a wacky set piece involving a tribe of mysterious sloths.

New this week in a new collector’s edition DVD, The Green Mile boasts an impressive pedigree, coming from the Shawshank Redemption creative team of Stephen King and Fran Darabont, starring Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan. For Christian viewers, the film promises spiritual overtones and Christian imagery. There is a mysterious figure, John Coffey (Duncan), of almost preternatural innocence and goodness, with a strange power to take others’ suffering upon himself. Wrongly sentenced to death, he dies forgiving his executioners.

Yet Coffey seems strangely unable to make a meaningful difference. People are moved by his goodness but seem neither freer nor nobler for the encounter. They aren’t more hopeful, either. Even Coffey’s closest “follower” (Hanks) longs only for death, though the film claims Coffey “infected” him with “life.” The Green Mile is the story of a martyr who dies for no cause, a wonder-worker who allows himself to be put to death for no good reason. Not that I blame Coffey — just the film for thinking his story deeply meaningful.

New this week in a new special edition DVD, Forbidden Planet is a smart camp classic, borrowing plot points from The Tempest and anticipating “Star Trek” in its sci-fi milieu. Yet its driving fears are the “monsters from the id,” the wayward, concupiscent passions of our hearts. Set in 2200 AD, the film opens with a spaceship from Earth arriving at a distant planet to investigate the status of a colonizing party. What Commander John Adams (Leslie Nielsen) and his crew find is a single survivor, the secretive, uncooperative Dr. Morbius — and his virginal but uninhibited daughter Altaira, who’s been raised by her father in isolation and has no firsthand knowledge of Earth or men.

Altaira naturally creates a stir among the long-isolated spacemen, and her naive lack of inhibitions about such matters as kissing — pure Enlightenment idealism — is as congenial to them as it would be to James T. Kirk. Yet in contrast to Kirk, a futurist hero for the 1960s, Adams has a more morally attuned understanding of the need for restraint and prudence. Forbidden Planet thus plays as an anticipated critique of “Star Trek” as well as a forerunner.