It's reached a point where Jay Dub doesn't need to be told what films to watch any more. If he hears a peep out of a talking animal, he's there like a trooper. Imagine his delight at the release of Ice Age: Continental Drift! To round things out, we have Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider dealing with his brother issues with The Do-Deca-Pentathlon.
EXPECTATIONS: The Ice Age franchise got off on the right foot with a decent first film, but it almost immediately descended into madness. I've always felt that the one thing the Ice Age films did right was creating the character of Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel whose misadventures chasing down acorns is the closest this generation has to a Wile E. Coyote. If Blue Sky Studios wanted to score a billion points with animation nerds around the world, they'd stop with all this Ice Age malarkey and focus on doing Scrat shorts til the end of time. That, unfortunately, is never going to happen, so we might as well get used to the ongoing adventures of Ray Romano the Milquetoast Mammoth.
REALITY: There was a time when the Ice Age series attempted to address some fairly serious issues in the guise of a silly cartoon about prehistoric animals. The original Ice Age featured a mammoth dealing with the loss of his family at the hands of violent humans, and had him setting aside that prejudice to reunite a baby human with its own family. Humans have since completely disappeared from the franchise, leaving me to wonder what Blue Sky has against putting people in their movies about how important it is to have family. The second film introduced the concept of global warming and (poorly) constructed a microcosm of the debate as we know it today. Ice Age: Continental Drift has... Continental drift. And pirate monkeys. Mostly pirate monkeys.
I don't think that's really how continental drift manifests itself.
After Scrat accidentally kickstarts continental drift with an acorn, our heroes Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) and Sid the walking lint trap (John Leguizamo) find themselves cast adrift on an iceberg in the middle of the ocean. With Sid's grandmother (Wanda Sykes) in tow, the gang desperately searches for a way back home before a giant moving wall of rock threatens to plunge Manny's wife (Queen Latifah) and daughter (Keke Palmer) into the sea. Along the way they encounter sirens, Ewok-like rodents, and Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage), a pirate ape who brings the gang aboard his ship and threatens to make them members of his crew. Will Manny get home in time to save his family? Will Diego incite crew members to mutiny? Will Sid's grandmother do anything useful? Of course they will.
An irritating trend in recent animated films is wasting perfectly good roles on A-list celebrity talent. There are hundreds of great voice actors out there begging for work, but when the big studios come calling for someone to voice the lead in one of their films, we wind up with folks like Ben Stiller, Angelina Jolie and Ray Romano. They're perfectly fine talents in their own right, yet they bring absolutely nothing to an animated film but their own boring voices and a name to put on the poster.
I look forward to extrapolations of this image appearing on Deviantart.Fortunately, the Ice Age series has John Leguizamo in its back pocket. Despite being hamstrung with some truly awful dialogue, Leguizamo at least gives Sid a distinct voice. He lisps and slurs his words together to form a goofy, pitiful little character you could believe no one would ever want to touch, which is a really weird sort of praise, when you think about it. Regrettably, he's the only series regular who even seems to be trying. Newcomer Peter Dinklage gives a rousing performance as Captain Gutt, a character every bit as charming and sinister as the one he plays on Game of Thrones. (Suggestion to the producers of Game of Thrones: Give Tyrion a pet monkey).
I could go into more detail about the plot or the 3D effects, but honestly, I'm finding it difficult coming up with words that would make for a unique review. The exact same face-value criticisms that applied to the last three Ice Age films also apply to Continental Drift: The CGI looks gorgeous, or at least it will until the next film outdoes it; the plot is a threadbare excuse for the screenwriters to plug chase scenes and action beats into a brief story treatment about how one of the characters is having family issues; the villain is a kid-friendly meany-pants who mostly just wants to be a dick to Manny; and the periodic non sequiturs involving Scrat are easily the highlights of the film (actually, this time around they're downright brilliant). Everything about Continental Drift is par for the course for the Ice Age sequels, save for the short Simpsons cartoon that precedes it. The film can't even climb the hurdle of besting a five-minute silent film about a baby.
At a certain point, I honestly stopped paying attention to the film and started watching the family in front of me. The two young parents had brought their toddler of maybe a year to see the film, and they spent nearly the whole film trying to get him to watch the screen. They kept pointing and going "Look! Look!" the way you point at a TV to show your dog there's a dog on the screen. I thought this was great fun for a while until I realized that the film was doing the exact same thing. Every two or three minutes, one of the characters would inevitably swing out across the screen on a branch or a rope and start screaming in the desperate hope that people were still watching.
Look! Look! Here's a 3D trick and some silly antics! Keep watching, please! Stop playing with your iPhones and look at us!
Animation, you're better than this.
|Lessons About Family||1/10|
|End Credits Dance-Off||Present|
|Maggie Simpson: The Longest Daycare||The Best Simpsons Cartoon in a Decade|
MINORITY REPORT: Every franchise eventually forgets its roots. With Ice Age, I think everyone else forgot too. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison
REFORMED HOG - Former member of the swine family, has now agreed to behave like a proper dog. Free to patient home willing to overlook physical defects. 555-2519
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Available in Large, which is actually a Medium stretched out to appear bigger.
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