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Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012)

July 17, 2012

 

written by: Michael Berg, James Fuchs and Mike Reiss

produced by: John C. Donkin, 

directed by: Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier

rating: PG (for mild rude humor and action/peril)

runtime: 94 min. 

U.S. release date: July 13, 2012

 

Here we have yet another adventure in the lives of oh-so familiar Paleolithical talking animals. So, it must be another “Ice Age” movie from Blue Sky Studios and 20th Century Fox. My question is – Does there really have to be another sequel? It’s hard to believe that there’s anything else for these creatures to do, especially when the material started to feel dried up in the last sequel, 2009’s “Dawn of the Dinosaurs”, but here we are with the fourth installment “Ice Age: Continental Drive”, which lives up to it’s name in that it just sort of drifts along. Oh, it has its charms and some satisfying enough voice work, but I couldn’t help thinking as I watched how this could’ve easily been a direct-to-DVD release, for characters who have already exhausted their time on the big-screen. But the producers know the age of their audience, and are counting on parents bringing those viewers to the multiplex on opening weekend.

Count me as one of the many parents who did just that. My 5 year-old indeed chuckled along with her BFF and even though I did laugh out loud in some spots, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes or groan at certain story elements. Not to mention, it seemed to take extra work to stay awake.

Before we catch up with the core Sub-Zero Heroes (as were first advertised in the debut ten years ago), we are treated to a hilarious opening that finds Scrat the long-toothed squirrel responsible for the break-up of Pangea. His unintentional global-altering antics were all on account of his never-ending pursuit of one sole acorn. It’s the best of what the “Ice Age” movies have provided – madcap physical silliness, reminiscent of the looniest Looney Toons animated bits. Something seemed familiar about it though and then I realized that this was Part 2 of “Scrat’s Continental Crack-Up”, a three minute short which was attached to the theatrical release of Fox’s wretched “Gulliver’s Travels” from 2010.

Upon noticing this, I couldn’t help but feel that this funny start felt more like a lazy move, desperate to wedge previous material into a preprogrammed product from a studio expecting box office over originality.

 

 

From there we find familial drama of woolly mammoth proportions, as worrisome father Manny (Ray Romano, sleep-walking) closely monitoring (and mistrusting) the activities of his teen offspring, Peaches (Keke Palmer, a long way from “Akeela and the Bee”), while his wife, Ellie (Queen Latifah) is there to try to calm him down. Peaches just wants to fraternize with the popular wooly teens (annoyingly voiced to resemble catty hip-hop Mean Girl teens, by the likes of Nicki Minaj, Heather Morris, and Ally Romano), in an effort to gain the attention of dreamboat Ethan (Drake), while disregarding her uncool molehog BFF, Louis (Josh Gad) who has a crush on her. There’s no escaping how gratingly generic it all feels, with material culled from just about any ABC Family or Disney Channel sitcom in the last ten years.

Oh wait – am I being overly critical on a “kiddie movie”, forgetting who the movie is for possibly? Actually, that’s exactly why I’m hard on “Continental Drift”. I don’t necessarily care to have my daughter subjected to the “OMG” – pinnings of a teen girl, even if she is a wooly mammoth. Especially in a summer where a movie like Pixar’s “Brave” embraces the efforts of a defiant and independent teen girl, fighting for her own place in the world, without the need for “a boy”.

As expected, it’s literally going to take the Earth to move to get father and daughter mammoths to realize how special and valuable they are to each other. So, when that literally happens (in the most geologically illogical manner) Manny and his pals, the serious saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary) and the affable sloth Sid (John Leguizamo), find themselves separated from family and friends and set adrift to sea on an ice floe. Desperate to reunite with his girls, Manny fights to find a way back to land, but winds up blown into fierce storms and surly creatures, such as obnoxious pirate ape Captain Gutt (a forced Peter Dinklage), named for what he likes to do with his claws not his physique. His band of furry enforcers (voiced by Rebel Wilson, Aziz Ansari, and Nick Frost) pillage and procure whatever they please, with his conflicted first mate, Shira (Jennifer Lopez), a tough feline who catches the eye of Diego.

Along with Granny (Wanda Sykes, overdoing it), the unintentional stowaway and toothless relative to Sloth, the trio of heroes go from being captives to leading an armada of prehistoric rodents against Gutt. While all that action is taking place on the seas, the numerous characters back on land are doing their best to find stable ground.

This is the first “Ice Age” movie to feel like an episode, rather than fun, cinematic escapism. Not even the use of unnecessary 3D could elevate “Continental Drift” from tired comedy and weak characterization to something different and new. The trio of writers here unfortunately focus on pirates (a played-out element in recent films, both live-action and animation) and the flat and forced subject of parental drama. I would’ve preferred more time spent on the sub-titular event that puts all these characters in motion, like an animated Irwin Allen or Devlin/Emmerich disaster flick. That I could get behind, instead of spending time with a miscast and unthreatening antagonist in the usually welcome Dinklage.

 

 

This is the first “Ice Age” movie that didn’t have the involvement of Brazilian animator/director Carlos Saldanha, whose busy working on a sequel to last year’s “Rio”. It’s hard to say whether or not that loss played a part in this underwhelming sequel. Obviously, this franchise is not losing any profitable steam, despite any of its creative attributes going the way of the dinosaur. Sure kids eat this stuff up and it’s a good way for parents to escape the summer heat, but in the end “Ice Age: Continental Drift” left me feeling cold.

It didn’t help that I was left to witness an end credit music video set to footage of most of the cast in a studio recording a song called “We Are”. Is anyone really going to go out and buy the soundtrack because they Ray Romano warbling with the likes of J-Lo? Are they the same consumers who will purchase the video game tie-ins on various platforms?

On the flip side, “The Longest Daycare” is a delightful 3D animated short which precedes the movie, starring Maggie Simpson from “The Simpsons”. For unknown reasons, Marge Simpson drops her youngest (and perennial pacifier-sucking) child off at a daycare and we get to spend the next 4 minutes and thirty seconds watching Maggie survival the perils of the cold and harsh facility, facing off against Gerald, the cruel unibrow toddler who’s obsessed with destruction. Thoroughly enjoyable, even if you’re not a fan of the show. It’s a reminder how deviously fun and expectedly clever and sweet the show is and made me long for another feature film. It does kind of stink that the rest of my viewing experience wasn’t as enjoyable.

 

RATING: **

 

 

 

 

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