Disney/Pixar is gearing up for the summer release of its latest digitally animated feature—Cars. But they've got some serious competition on the CGI racetrack now. Blue Sky's latest animated adventure Ice Age: The Meltdown conquered the box office last weekend like a champ, pulling in $68 million.

Peter T. Chattaway (Christianity Today Movies) gave the film a mix of criticism and praise. Comparing it to Robots, he says both films "revel in clever, complex set-pieces and lowbrow, big-rear-end humor, but fall somewhat short when it comes to character development and interpersonal warmth. Still, if the new film doesn't quite resonate on the same emotional or even spiritual levels that the first film did, it does have a zany energy that sometimes transcends the humor of the first film."

Other Christian film critics are impressed with the production, but have a few reservations about the uninspired plot.

Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) begins by lauding the original Ice Age, noting that part of its appeal—compared to Monsters Inc. and particularly Shrek—is "its very lack of sophistication and irony, a refreshing change from the overly knowing tone of much family entertainment."

Of the sequel, he observes that "Technically, Ice Age2 is light-years ahead of its predecessor. … There's also a new creative exuberance and visual flair … . At the same time, Ice Age2 lacks what such a sequel most crucially needs: a reason to revisit the central characters, a fresh take on their relationships, new places for them to go emotionally or dramatically. In a word, the story is lacking."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says "the story thins along with the ice. But in the thawing process, the laughs and zany charm remain intact. … Meltdown might be seen as a cautionary tale about global warming, but as before its paramount message concerns family and friendship. Though obviously kid-friendly, there are several scenes involving a pair of vicious sea monsters—frozen since dinosaur days—that may frighten some tykes."

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) wasn't surprised to see Meltdown "tread much of the same territory that made the original such a success. … And the positive messages—especially the importance of family, no matter what shape, size or form it comes in—are just as prevalent." But he concludes that "Meltdown seems to have more elements of a straight-to-video story rather than a blockbuster follow-up. Maybe it's the movie's lagging second act … [o]r the writing that, while clever, isn't quite up to par with the first go-round."

Lisa Rice (Crosswalk) cautions parents of small children. "Scary elements, such as sea monsters, avalanches, and hot geysers, as well as 'end of the world' portrayals, could be a bit too intense for very young, impressionable children." But she praises the themes ("in unity we prevail") and says "the writers did an amazing job in entertaining kids of all ages.The laughter in the theater was non-stop and infectious."

Mainstream critics have mixed feelings, but most are content to recommend it.

Trust your basic instincts: Avoid this sequel

There might have been the germ of a meaningful story in the idea for the original Basic Instinct. One could argue that we need movies that show weak-willed men reaping the consequences of sexual misbehavior.

But it defeats the purpose of such a story if the film serves up gratuitous sex scenes and fuel for reckless fantasies, as Basic Instinct did. And it doesn't help if the movie is mind-numbingly dull, like Basic Instinct 2.

One wonders why Sharon Stone, who has turned in memorable performances in worthwhile films like Martin Scorsese's Casino, Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, and even the underrated animated film Antz, would want to return to the role of a murderous sexual exhibitionist. Her performance here is apparently so preposterously campy that some critics are responding by saying she was better as the vampy villain in 2004's disastrous action-flick Catwoman. Is she one of those women who thinks it is somehow "liberating" and "empowering" to encourage males to lust, further objectifying women as sex objects? Or does she need the money?

It's probably safe to say that the bad reviews crushing Michael Caton-Jones's so-called "erotic thriller" are much more entertaining than the movie.

Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) writes, "Basic Instinct 2 seems unlikely to inspire either outrage or ticket sales. The artlessness with which director Michael Caton-Jones constructs this ridiculous movie makes the whole queasy effort feel like some mid-'90s made-for-cable, late-night skin flick. When not utterly incomprehensible, the plot plods through a swamp of inane dialogue as characters spew psychobabble and misdirection. By the time the credits rolled, the bewildering double-reverse cop-out ending left me even less interested in figuring out who killed whom and why."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says the film "aspires to film noir, but its shadowy sordidness can't disguise a cartoonish lead performance and an empty, tangled script which distracts with salaciousness to make up for its lack of suspense and intelligence. The Big Sleep would have been a better title, if Raymond Chandler hadn't already used it."

Mainstream reviewerss are panning it, but with creative criticism—like Ty Burr (The Boston Globe), who calls it "absurdly overheated and unforgivably dull … the accidental comedy sensation of the year to date."