As someone who’s seen the first Ice Age but not parts 2 or 3 (The Meltdown and Dawn of the Dinosaurs), I began to wonder if I was missing out on a rewarding movie franchise – one whose likability and popularity was apparently evident by its billions in box office and the millions of moviegoers who have kept the saga afloat since the original Ice Age in 2002.
After seeing Ice Age: Continental Drift -- the highly disposable yet occasionally endearing fourth entry in the series from Blue Sky Studios (Rio, Horton Hears a Who!) – I don’t think I’ve been missing much. We meet up with woolly mammoth Manny (Ray Romano), sabre-tooth tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) as their herd (including Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and their teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer)) get caught up in the cataclysmic separation of their landmass, casting Manny, Diego, Sid, and Sid’s eccentric Granny (Wanda Sykes) out to sea on a mass of ice.
As our trio of heroes (plus 1) try to reach the destination where Ellie, Peaches, and the rest of the herd will meet them, they encounter simian sea pirate Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and his crew, including first mate Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a sabre-tooth tiger who ends up with conflicting feelings about her captain and Diego.
With all the effort the filmmakers behind Ice Age: Continental Drift put into the action scenes and stunning visuals (especially the breathtaking sequences of the giant land mass breaking apart), they should have devoted more to character development. Ironically, that devotion would be a major undertaking, for by continuously adding new characters with each film in the franchise, it leaves directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier with the unenviable task of finding a purpose for each character in what is now a cast of dozens.
This overpopulation is also a far cry from what made the original Ice Age’s core trio of Manny, Diego, and Sid fun to watch. Martino, Thurmeier, and Continental Drift’s trio of writers seem to agree, for the main plot sends Manny, Diego, and Sid (and Sid’s Granny) on their own adventure, relegating the rest of the cast to a B-story of trekking across the remaining landmass to reunite with our heroes.
The dialogue and jokes in Ice Age: Continental Drift rarely rise above the level of sitcoms or Saturday morning cartoons, and laugh-out-loud moments are at a minimum. The only exceptions are the adorable, hyperactive hyraxes (who form an Ewok-like alliance with Manny, Diego, and Sid to help bring down Captain Gutt) and the ongoing hilarious antics of Scrat the squirrel and his never-ending pursuit of his elusive acorn. Outside of that, the script largely serves to advance the plot to the finish line, peppered with mawkish Valuable Lessons and Very Special Moments about love, family, father/daughter relationships, and not forgetting your true friends.
If Pixar classics such as Finding Nemo and The Incredibles are gourmet meals, then Ice Age: Continental Drift is Chinese food: It doesn’t stay with you, and an hour later you’ll be hungry for something more substantial.
What did Dash and Jack-Jack think?
Is it suitable for your kids?Ice Age: Continental Drift is rated PG for mild rude humor and action/peril.
Mild/rude humor: Sadly, there is so much name-calling that it’s impossible to list them all here, but a sampling includes “freak,” “wiener,” “stupid,” “loser,” “idiot,” “tubby,” “cry baby,” and “pinhead.” In addition, Granny makes a couple of off-color quips, such as “I’ll bury y’all and dance on your grave” and “If they kiss, I’m gonna puke.” Also, Sid exclaims “Holy crab!” after seeing a giant crustacean, and a child animal asks Ellie, “When you drink through your nose, does it taste like boogers?”
Action/peril: An extended sequence shows landmasses separating violently, causing animals to run and panic; some of the fights between Manny’s herd and Gutt’s pirates are pretty intense, with weapons in heavy use; Gutt makes verbal threats to various characters, and attempts to kill Ellie and Manny during the finale.
Will your FilmMother want to watch it?My wife enjoyed Ice Age: Continental Drift, though I’m guessing it won’t rank as one of her all-time favorites. But it made for a passably fun family film outing while it lasted.
Ice Age: Continental Drift
* Directors: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier
* Screenwriters: Michael Berg, Jason Fuchs, Mike Reiss
* Stars: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Peter Dinklage, Keke Palmer, Simon Pegg, Seann William Scott, Wanda Sykes
* MPAA Rating: PG
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