The Ice Age gravy train continues to rake in money hand-over-fist, as the saga reaches its fourth installment this week.
Manny, Diego and Sid have come a long way. The trio have saved a baby, survived a flood and fought off dinosaurs. In their newest adventure, the gang finds themselves separated from their families and drifting across the ocean on an iceberg that’s barely big enough to hold them all. Pile on more characters, action, animal pirates, giant whales, sea monsters and an army of Ewok chipmunks and you have; “Ice Age: Continental Drift”.
The story picks up roughly where the third movie left off. It opens with Scrat trying to guard his beloved and seemingly cursed nut. He ends up sticking it in the wrong hole (happens to the best of us) and goes on a journey to the centre of the earth, where the prehistoric squirrel tears up the tectonic plates and causes the continents to split. The premise isn’t rocket science, but it needed a kick start and writers can always count on Scrat to cause chaos.
Beyond the familiar faces, the fourth installment introduces some newcomers, which includes; Sid’s granny (Wanda Sykes) – a relentlessly chatty 80-year-old sloth. Trying to bring comic relief to the group, Sid’s granny is like a Jar-Jar Binks on Speed (annoying). Another new addition to the group are a band of sea pirates led by a giant ape named, “Captain Gutt” voiced by everyone’s favourite midget, Peter Dinklage. Introducing the new antagonists offer up a chance for Denis Leary’s Diego to get romantic with fellow sabre-toothed Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez), and provide some visual contrast between the chilly landscapes of the first two Ice Ages and the more colourful locales of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.
The Ice Age franchise has seen better days, but the voice work of Romano, Leguizamo and Leary, continue to deliver the goods. They’re just as entertaining on their high seas adventure, as they were during the first three movies. However, the surplus of supporting cast means a lot of the characters are left with little to do- which is the movies biggest weakness. For some reason the studio felt obligated to continue a story for the characters left behind. The writers fell short and came up with a lame mother/daughter bonding subplot that never carries much emotional heft. The parallel story that unfolds back home, is about Peaches befriending the ‘cool kids’. A predictable and preachy tale of teenage angst, it slows the story down and feels more like an episode of Family Ties than a diverting blockbuster sub-plot. It’s simply fluff, and the movie doesn’t need it.
Unlike its predecessor, Continental Drift will leave you twiddling your thumbs waiting for the squirrel to show up and generate some chuckles. Mercifully Scrat is on-hand to perk proceedings up. His mini-movie has him searching for a legendary treasure. Transporting the squirrel to a nutty desert island and, most memorably, Scratlantis, where he encounters a quite hilarious vocal cameo by Patrick Stewart, will compensate for the “slow” parts of the movie.
Overall the movie is nothing to run over fans waiting in line with your car for. It certainly isn’t a Pixar-beater. The narrative is too simplistic and one-dimensional to compete with the best that that studio has to offer. Ultimately, Ice Age: Continental Drift feels very much like it’s a sequel for a franchise running out of steam. The jokes don’t quite stick anymore, too many new characters are introduced (including mammoths voiced by Nicki Minaj and Glee’s Heather Morris) in a bid to inject new life into the story, and there’s little real excitement beyond the 3D CGI spectacle.
If you have kids, I’m sure they will bug you to see it, but be warned- prior to the movie you’ll view a Simpsons short which shows more genuine humor in its five minutes than the entire feature film- but for the kids, I give “Ice Age: Continental Drift” a 6/10.
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“Ice Age: Continental Drift” is Rated: PG. Running time: 94 minutes. In theatres everywhere July 13, 2012