Ice Age: Continental Drift
What We Liked:child-friendly humor, realistic textures, unique animation style.
What We Disliked:too many characters and set pieces; obnoxious use of 3D.
Ice Age 4 is overstuffed, but while it has its story shortcomings, it does satisfy on an entertainment level.
Ice Age: Continental Drift is an entertaining if hyperactive spectacle of filmmaking intended for children with short attention spans. It has moments of humor aimed at adults (watch for a Braveheart reference), and the CGI animation is well done, but it’s less memorable story than summer thrill ride.
Much like the recently released Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4 suffers from overpopulation. The four original characters are back: Manny the mammoth (voiced by Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), Sid the Sloth (John Leguizamo), and Scrat, the acorn-obsessed squirrel (Chris Wedge). Manny’s wife Ellie (Queen Latifah) and her possum friends Eddie (Josh Peck) and Crash (Seann William Scott) from the sequels also make a return. Ice Age 4 further introduces Manny and Ellie’s teenage daughter Peaches (Keke Palmer), her molehog best friend Louis (Josh Gad), a clique of teenage mammoths, and Sid’s grandmother (Wanda Sykes), as well as a host of others.
Sid’s family drops his senile grandmother off, abandoning her for Sid to take care of. Meanwhile, Peaches is coming of age, and is spending more time away from her family than her father cares for. Peaches wishes her father would just go away. Just then, a cataclysmic earthquake tears the continents apart, and separates Manny, Diego and Sid from Peaches and the rest of the herd. Manny tells his family to meet them at a newly formed land bridge before drifting on an iceberg out to sea. They try to paddle back to land, but the current is too strong.
It’s not long before they’re captured by a band of pirates, lead by Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), a primate, and his first mate Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a female saber-toothed tiger. They manage to escape, destroying their ship, and take Shira with them. Manny must figure out a way home, but Gutt swears revenge on them.
The film rushes through the opening. Right from the get-go, Diego gets caught up in a log sled ride, driven by Sid’s obnoxious family. They deliver a flurry of expository dialog before disappearing just as quickly. Only a moment later, Peaches tumbles down a snowy hill, trying to impress hunky Drake. Most scenes get only a minute or two before it puts something else into play; there isn’t a moment’s pause. And then the earthquake. I haven’t even mentioned Scrat’s misadventure to the center of the earth. I was exhausted before the first act was over.
From there, we follow three main plot threads. Manny and company try to get back to his family, while Ellie leads the herd to the rendezvous point. On a separate adventure, Scrat follows a treasure map to a bounty of acorns. There’s also a romantic subplot between Diego and Shira, and Peaches’s attempts at getting with hunky Ethan, while turning her back on Louis, who’s been friend-zoned. There’s also about half a dozen set-pieces. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on. Too much, really.
However, there are a lot of laughs to be had in Ice Age 4 that make it entertaining if nothing else. The dialog favors puns and non-sequiturs, such as when Manny observes of Diego, “You’re coming down with the “L” word.” “Yeah, leprosy!” Sid offers.
Also in the film’s favor is that the computer animation is fairly well done. One of the advantages of this type of animation as compared to traditional cell animation is that it can create textures. There’s a moment when Manny and company emerge from the ocean water, and their fur is drenched—and it looks it. The animation style in Ice Age 4 is cartoonier than Pixar or even DreamWorks goes for. Sid’s arms and face go rubbery on one occasion, and Scrat provides slapstick humor reminiscent of Looney Tunes. When Manny and friends encounter sirens, there’s some reaction shots that nod to Tex Avery.
Ice Age 4 is available in both 3D and 2D formats. I saw the former, and recommend the latter. Ice Age likes to shove the characters’ faces right up into the camera, and the 3D emphasizes that closeness. It’s an in-your-face style of 3D, and every time it does this, it feels like it’s getting in one’s personal space—and these are not attractive characters.
While the original Ice Age remains the best of the series by far, Continental Drift is better than interim sequels The Meltdown and Dawn of the Dinosaurs. The screening I attended was filled with the sound of giggling children. I laughed several times myself. Ice Age 4 is overstuffed, but while it has its story shortcomings, it does satisfy on an entertainment level.