Ice Age: Continental Drift
Opens Friday at International Village
That prehistoric band of brothers is at it again, in the fourth installment of the Ice Age franchise. Visuals are varied and improve with each movie, but when it comes to sticking to the well-worn path or forging a fresh narrative trail, filmmakers opt for same old, age old.
The first film still holds up as the most interesting because it explored new friendships, becoming a behemoth buddy movie. Now that Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo), Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger are bonded, they barely talk to each other, much less exchange the witty banter and barbs that characterized the original.
And so new blood is necessary. That means the injection of a love interest for Diego (a white tiger played by Jennifer Lopez) and Sid’s dithering granny (voiced by Wanda Sykes), who’s forever looking for her dead pet.
As earth and ice break apart, Manny finds himself separated from his family—mate Ellie (Queen Latifah) and teen daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer)—and adrift on a chunk of ice with Diego and Sid.
This time around the bad guys aren’t dinosaurs, they’re pirates. The boys finally spy another group of survivors on a bigger chunk of ice, only to discover that it’s a ragtag group of pirates led by an orangutan named Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) who, through rotten teeth, growls that “this ocean’s not big enough for the both of us.” The pirate theme provides the opportunity for a couple of “booty” double entendres (of course) and the singing of a sea shanty, plus it’s extra incentive for Manny and company to get back to dry land before they’re bumped into a watery grave.
Meanwhile, back on terra-relatively-firma, Peaches is asserting her independence, spending more time hanging out with the cool kids and facing mammoth peer pressure from a trio of teens, voiced by singers Drake and Nicki Minaj and Glee’s Heather Morris. In climbing the social ladder, Peaches leaves her mole friend Louis (Josh Gad) in the dust. Latifah isn’t left with much to do other than pine for her spouse.
But as always, some of the biggest laughs come courtesy of the character who can’t speak. The plot is intercut by scenes of Scrat, the hapless squirrel, chasing his acorn. It is his quest that causes the continental shift in the first place, and we know precisely what will happen the moment he sets foot on idyllic “Scratlantis.” A side story about a whale named Precious is another highlight.
If a Christianity reference has you scratching your head (clearly JC wasn’t around yet) or the dissolution of supercontinent Pangaea (175 million years ago) seems out of place with woolly mammoths (150,000 BC) then you are thinking way too hard: the Ice Age films have never been about historical or paleontological accuracy. At their best directors Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier lob good-natured jabs at inferior species and keep momentum moving with sharp action sequences, and in this, Continental Drift satisfies.
It’s rated PG for rude humour and mild action/peril, mostly due to Sid’s creepy encounter with the sirens; otherwise this fourth film is ideally suited to the kid viewers in your household, but may bore the grown-ups.