‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ proves there’s still laughs before the extinction

Manny, Diego, Sid, Granny, Shira, Silas, Raz, Flynn, Badger, Gutt, Squint, Dobson … and Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen in ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ — Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Studios

When an animated movie receives numerous sequels, it usually means danger ahead. Original films slowly morph into franchises. Amusement park rides are christened. Dolls hit the toy shelves. Video games and books flood children’s rooms. When does the onslaught stop?

Ice Age is certainly a franchise, but the fourth installment of the successful animated series proves there’s a reason we like to hang out with Diego (Denis Leary), Sid (John Leguizamo) and Manny (Ray Romano). These three unlikely friends make for some great comedy, both of the cerebral and silly kind.

In Continental Drift, the threesome face an ever-destructive world where the continents begin to crack and reform. Wooly mammoths like Manny are driven from their homelands. Saber-tooth tigers like Diego are few and far between. Sloths like Sid are still present and accounted for, always recognizable for their odor and laziness.

The plot is set in motion when the three buddies are separated from their families after a particularly harsh continental shaking. Floating in the open ocean on a melting iceberg, their only company is each other and a band of pesky pirates led by Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage). This monkey king takes no prisoners and commands his underlings with ferocity. It’s up to Diego, Sid and Manny to escape his evil clutches and reconnect with their families.

At this point, Ice Age goes more for the easy laughs than the heartfelt messages. Sure, there’s the storyline of Manny having to recognize that his daughter is all grown up. Sure, there’s the feeling of family abandonment on the part of Sid. Sure, there’s Diego’s burgeoning relationship with a fellow she-tiger. But all of these plots take a backseat to stupid humor, pratfalls and zingy one-liners.

And, to be honest, that’s OK. Ice Age: Continental Drift is inescapably fun. It’s adventurous and comedic for the youngsters, and equally enjoyable for the adults. There’s not much background given for the new villains (almost no subtext is offered for Captain Gutt), but who really cares how an evil monkey became evil in the first place?

The animation style is beautiful and unique, featuring hard lines around facial features and soft lines for anything liquid. For this fourth installment, the animators have their creations down pat, and this lets them focus on more action and physical absurdity. If you want to see a wooly mammoth fly through the air, you’re in for a treat.

Of the new supporting characters, Sid’s grandmother, known as Granny (Wanda Sykes), receives the most laughs. Others are less memorable, including Jennifer Lopez’s Shira and Joy Behar’s Eunice.

Ice Age: Continental Drift will not win over new fans, but it will supply plenty of entertainment to those who’ve already fallen in love with Diego, Manny and Sid.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Ice Age: Continental Drift

  • 2012

  • Directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier

  • Written by Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs

  • Starring the voice talents of Ray Romano, Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Jennifer Lopez and Joy Behar

  • Running time: 88 minutes

  • Rated PG for mild rude humor and action/peril

  • Rating: ★★★☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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