Ice Age: Continental Drift, the fourth feature in the Ice Age series, features more of the same family-oriented fun, albeit with a startlingly heavy emphasis on action, continuing on a theme in recent mainstream animated fare (see also: Cars 2, Madagascar 3).
It’s about 80% of the usual-usual, but I was surprised with the surreal diversions taken by the remaining 20%, mostly featuring the mute Scrat character, who has stolen each of the previous Ice Age films (and features prominently in each film’s advertising) and continues that tradition here. As someone who hasn’t really taken to the series, I found myself mostly enjoying this one.
If you’ve seen the advance Scrat shorts –Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up Parts 1 and 2, which were (locally, at least) cut together to form a theatrical trailer for the film – you’ll know the general idea behind Continental Drift.
Scrat’s long-time pursuit of an acorn (and the right hiding spot) leads to the breakup of Pangaea, which immediately sends the continents drifting apart (I hope no one has ever accused the franchise of historical accuracy).
Our heroes – mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), and sloth Sid (John Leguizamo) – are separated from their pack and set adrift in the ocean on an ice floe. On the mainland, Manny’s wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Keke Palmer) join the other critters in an attempt to outrun a giant wall of earth that is slowly approaching.
At sea, Manny, Diego, and Sid are joined by Sid’s Granny (Wanda Sykes). They soon run afoul of a band of pirates led by primate Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage) and second-in-command saber-tooth Shira (Jennifer Lopez), and a rivalry is born.
Storywise, there are few surprises in Ice Age 4; we learn the value of family and friendship as Manny attempts to make it back home and daughter Peaches is torn between her friend Louis (Josh Gad) and the mammoth she has a crush on (Drake).
Still, there are plenty of fun diversions to be had, including a number of Scrat scenes, even though you’ve already seen half of them if you’ve seen the aforementioned shorts. But Leguizamo’s Sid is also a lot of fun, as are Sykes as Granny and Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones), who is clearly relishing the opportunity to play the villainous Gutt.
The 3D doesn’t really add much to the film – Madagascar 3 easily tops this one in that regard – but the character design is phenomenal: richly textured and with added dimensionality, many of the characters (but especially Sid and Gutt) have a kind of weighty, really-there presence that makes them feel less like computer-generated objects and more like stop-motion creations.
Best of all is the opening short film, which is a return to the big screen for the creative team behind The Simpsons: Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”, a dialogue-less 3D short, is a real delight.